Dean Kukan

Blue Jackets’ nightmare season of injuries continues with Bjorkstrand news

You could not possibly blame the Columbus Blue Jackets and their fans if they thought there was some kind of supernatural force aligning against them this season.

It is obviously just a lot of bad luck, but the ongoing injury situation is really starting to become absurd.

It continued on Friday with the news that Oliver Bjorkstrand, currently the team’s leading goal scorer this season with 21 goals in only 49 games, is going to be sidelined for the next 8-10 weeks due to an ankle sprain and fracture.

The injury happened in the Blue Jackets’ loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.

Columbus managed to overcome a free agency exodus this offseason to remain in the playoff race far longer than most expected, but the injuries are starting to add up into something that might be too much to overcome.

Bjorkstrand’s injury comes at a time where the team is already playing without Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones, Joonas Korpisalo, Josh Anderson, Ryan Murray, Alexandre Texier, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Dubinsky, and Dean Kukan.

That list includes two of their top forwards (Atkinson and Bjorkstrand), their top defenseman (Jones), their starting goalie (Korpisalo), and a couple of young players they were counting on to take big steps forward this season (Texier, Wennberg).

For the season the Blue Jackets have lost a league-leading 345 man games due to injury.

Despite all of that they went on a 19-2-5 run for the two-month stretch between Dec. 7 and Feb. 7 to climb to within striking distance of the second playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Since then, though, they have managed just an 0-3-4 record in the seven games since.

As of Friday they occupy the top Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 73 points, just one point ahead of the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes. They are also just two points behind the Flyers for the third spot in the Metropolitan Division. The problem is all three of those teams have games in hand on the Blue Jackets and are on pace for more points this season.

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Blue Jackets suffer worst injury yet: Seth Jones out 8-10 weeks

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The Blue Jackets received their worst injury news yet: Seth Jones is expected to miss 8-10 weeks after surgery. The surgery addressed a sprain and hairline fracture of his ankle. It’s the latest bit of injury news on a tough Tuesday for such updates.

Seth Jones injury likely keeps him out of Blue Jackets playoff push

If that recovery window holds, Jones would miss the remainder of the regular season (which ends on April 4). Hockey players sometimes beat even optimistic recovery windows, though, so we’ll see.

Jones suffered the injury during this play on Saturday:

Jones leads the Blue Jackets in average time on ice (25:17), ranking sixth overall in the NHL. Jones earned his third All-Star appearance in 2019-20, generating 30 points in 56 games.

John Tortorella must find a way to replace a versatile player, not just a star. Jones spends almost as much time on the PK (2:25 SH TOI per game) as he does on the power play (2:34).

It will be interesting to see who steps up in Jones’ jarring absence. Zach Werenski has already been logging more than an extra minute of ice time per night (23:44 to 24:52) since Ryan Murray went down with an injury, with David Savard and Vladislav Gavrikov seeing similar increases. We’ll see if Torts can spread out that added burden in a way that keeps the Blue Jackets competitive.

About the only (weak) argument you can muster is that perhaps Jones’ loss might be exaggerated by some. There are certain measures, such as Evolving Hockey’s RAPM charts, where Jones looks great, but maybe not mind-blowing:

Seth Jones RAPM injury

To clarify: I don’t think such an argument goes very far, aside from maybe if you’re trying to choose between Jones vs. other of the NHL’s best.

The Blue Jackets have done a marvelous job limiting high-danger chances against (maybe carrying over from their sweep of the Lightning?). If the Blue Jackets can hang in there without Jones, it would be one heck of an argument for Torts as a Jack Adams candidate.

Banged-up Blue Jackets

Again, Columbus already faced waves of injuries this season.

Alexander Wennberg recently joined a list that includes Murray, Joonas Korpisalo, Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, Alexandre Texier, Brandon Dubinsky, and Dean Kukan. Jones shows that their injury list is a galling mix of quality and quantity.

The Blue Jackets deserve ample credit for hanging in the East playoff races, but they don’t enjoy much margin for error:

There are at least occasional reasons for optimism, mind you. Jackets Insider’s Jeff Svoboda reports that Anderson, Atkinson, and Korpisalo all were on the ice on Tuesday, if nothing else.

The larger point remains: it would be quite the story if the Blue Jackets can make the playoffs, especially after losing Jones.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Blue Jackets injured list keeps growing as Wennberg to miss 3-4 weeks

Blue Jackets
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The injuries will not stop for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

They added another name to their already lengthy injured list on Monday when they announced that forward Alexander Wennberg is going to miss the next three-to-four weeks due to an upper-body injury.

He was injured during the Blue Jackets’ 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday afternoon.

Wennberg is one of just eight Blue Jackets to have played in at least 50 of the team’s first 53 games this season. He has five goals 15 assists on the season.

He is not one of the Blue Jackets’ biggest offensive contributors, but any injury at this point is going to be significant given the list of players they are already without. The Blue Jackets are already dealing with injuries to Josh Anderson, Ryan Murray, Joonas Korpisalo, Alexandre Texier, Dean Kukan, and now Wennberg. That list also does not include Brandon Dubinsky (who has yet to play in a single game this season), or the previous injuries they have dealt with this season.

At various times this season they have also been without defenseman Zach Werenski (nine games), top goal scorer Oliver Bjorkstrand (13 games), and top winger Cam Atkinson (12 games).

When you add all of that to the offseason free agent departures it is amazing that this team is not only in a playoff spot as of Monday, but is also two points ahead of its pace from a year ago. It is a testament to the job coach John Tortorella has done behind the bench, and also the shockingly great play of their goalies (Korpisalo, Elvis Merzlikins, and Matiss Kivlenieks).

The Blue Jackets are on a run that has seen them collect a point in 22 of their past 24 games (17-2-5). They play again on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers in a huge game in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Panthers are dealing with their own significant injury at the moment (read about it here).

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Pastrnak, Bruins take 3-2 series lead after wild third period

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David Pastrnak has taken a lot of heat in these playoffs.

While Pastrnak had nine points in 11 games coming into Game 5 on Saturday night in Boston, he also suffered through two streaks without a goal (one for three games, the other for four) during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and those struggles drew plenty of attention.

The hot Pastrnak takes will further be cooled after a two-goal performance, including the timeliest of timely goals to break a tie game late in the third period, providing the sauce needed to push the Bruins past the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 to take a 3-2 series lead.

Boston’s best had been anything but prior to Game 4, with just a single point — a goal off Pastrnak’s skate. The result was a 2-1 series deficit. When your top three players — Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron — don’t score, games aren’t won.

That changed in Game 4 when the trio combined for three goals and five points in a 4-1 win to level the affair. On Saturday, the outpouring of offense continued with a further six points attributed to them.

Marchand set up Pastrnak twice in the game and scored the goal to make it 2-0 early in the third.

The narrative for this story initially read like a book of praise for Tuukka Rask with about 10 minutes left in the third period.

Not only had Rask stifled the Columbus Blue Jackets at every juncture, but a 10-1 start to the final frame on the shot clock also suggested that perhaps the Blue Jackets had started to run on empty.

Columbus appeared to punch themselves out in the second frame (they looked gassed throughout the first two periods, if we’re being honest). They found 15 shots but couldn’t find a way past Rask, who looked particularly on point on Columbus’ lone power-play attempt in the period.

But a sharp-angle shot from Seth Jones that squeaked over the goal line breathed some life into the Blue Jackets and ushered in three minutes of mayhem that would wildly change the game.

Pastrnak’s first of the game was the answer the Bruins were looking for right after a long break for a review. The goal came 43 seconds after Jones’ to steady the ship.

Or not.

Ryan Dzingel answered 51 seconds after that and Dean Kukan tied the game just under two minutes later as the Blue Jackets resurrected themselves and their chances in the game.

Pastrnak’s goal at 18:32 puts the Bruins on the right side of the odds. Teams that win Game 5 in a series level at 2-2 coming into go on to win said series roughly 80 percent of the time.

Boston will get their chance to finish off the Blue Jackets at 7 p.m. on Monday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The Blue Jackets have yet to face elimination in these playoffs but will have the cannon on their side in Game 6. They’ve shown tremendous resiliency, and they’ll have to find that resolve two more times if they want to book a date against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Bruins win wild Game 4, even series with Blue Jackets

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The Boston Bruins needed their best players to shine in Game 4 on Thursday night, and they did exactly that.

Because of that performance the Bruins were able to even their Round 2 series with the Columbus Blue Jackets at two games apiece thanks to a 4-1 win that was, at times, pretty chaotic.

Let’s take a quick look at everything that unfolded at Nationwide Arena.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

We need to start with the Bruins’ top line as it was finally able to get going after a quiet start to the series. The Bruins reunited the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak for this game and that trio combined for three of their four goals. Pastrnak got things started just 3:33 into the game to give the Bruins the lead, which was followed by Bergeron adding a power play goal just five minutes later to extend the lead. Bergeron would score another power play goal late in the third period to put the game away.

While the stars at the top were doing their job to jumpstart the offense, starting goalie Tuukka Rask was absolutely spectacular in net stopping 39 of the 40 shots he faced on the night.

That includes a Boone Jenner penalty shot just six minutes into the game that could have tied the score at one with the Bruins on the power play.

It would not be be the only shorthanded opportunity Rask would have to stop on the night as the Bruins gave up chances all night on the man-advantage for much of the night (at least five of them, almost all of which were by Jenner).

Had it not been for the play of Rask this game could have easily gone in a different direction, or at least been a lot closer on the scoreboard at the end.

The only goal he allowed was a controversial one that was the result of Artemi Panarin scoring after the puck hit the protective netting behind the Bruins goal, which was missed by all four on-ice officials.

Along with the emergence of the Bruins’ top line, a penalty shot, countless shorthanded chances, and a controversial goal, there was also another controversial hit in the series as Columbus’ Dean Kukan was given a two-minute minor for this hit to the head of Bruins forward David Backes.

Backes was down for a few moments and exited the game for a while before ultimately returning. It is a play the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will almost certainly look at, but given the standard that has been established this postseason it may not be enough to reach the level of supplemental discipline.

It was an eventful night in what has been a ridiculously close series through the first four games. Now it all comes down to which team can win two of the next three for a chance to go to the Eastern Conference Final.

Game 5 of Bruins-Blue Jackets is Saturday at 7:15 ET on NBC.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.