One of the more intriguing aspects of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ late-season push to make the playoffs has been the handful of games in which they have not only rested starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, but have not even dressed him.
Thursday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers will be another one of those games as he will once again not be available.
In the words of head coach John Tortorella, via Blue Jackets insider Jeff Svoboda, it is because “he’s nicked.”
Joonas Korpisalo will get the start with Keith Kinkaid serving as the backup.
There were was even more intrigue to this situation on Thursday when Kinkaid was briefly shaken up in practice following a collision with 6-3, 220-pound forward Josh Anderson, but he seems to be okay and available for backup duties on Thursday.
This will be the third time over the past month that Bobrovsky has not dressed for a game, having also been scratched against the Pittsburgh Penguins back on March 7 in what was at the time a massive game, and then again one week later against the Boston Bruins. The explanation for the scratch against Pittsburgh was so they could rest him and allow him to work on his game (he returned to start one night later at home against the same Penguins team), while the Boston scratch came just one night after he stopped 46 shots in a shutout win over the Carolina Hurricanes.
All of it together leads to a lot of speculation and questions.
Has he been “nicked” up all this time? Does that explain why the Blue Jackets felt the need to trade for Kinkaid and willingly carry three NHL caliber goalies at this point in the season? Does it help explain why Bobrovsky’s performance has dropped off this much for the season as a whole? Or did they just simply want to keep all of their goalies fresh and give themselves some added depth? Maybe all of the above?
These are questions we probably will not get clear answers to until the end of the season (if at all), but there is definitely a lot to take in here.
Bobrovsky’s .909 save percentage is one of the worst marks of his NHL career and comes during a year in which he is playing for a big contract this summer.
He has been better lately with a .945 save percentage in his past six starts, winning four of them.
The Blue Jackets enter the night with only a one-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and are just 5-6-1 in 12 games since the NHL trade deadline when they added Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid, and Kinkaid in an effort to make one more big run while they still have Artemi Panarin and Bobrovsky on the roster.
Given how much the Oilers have struggled lately and how tight the playoff race is, these are two points the Blue Jackets simply have to get no matter who their goalie is.
Related: Blue Jackets need to take advantage of schedule
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.