Wednesday, February 8 2023

The Columbus Blue Jackets may want to consider handing out four-leaf clovers or a lucky rabbit’s foot to every player not listed on the team’s injury report.

“Bubble wrap is what we need,” coach Brad Larsen said after losing Patrik Laine to an ankle sprain and then losing three more players Tuesday in a 5-4 overtime victory against the Philadelphia Flyers. “Every time (head athletic trainer) Mike Vogt walks down to my office, I just shake my head, because it’s not like it’s just ‘day-to-day.’ It seems to be bad news … or real bad news.”

The latest injuries took out goalie Elvis Merzlikins for 1-2 weeks with a lower-body injury, defenseman Jake Bean for an undetermined amount of time and made forward Emil Bemstrom a game-time decision for a faceoff Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens. What’s ailing Bemstrom hasn’t been disclosed. He finished the game against the Flyers, but missed practice Wednesday while being evaluated by a doctor. Merzlikins and Bean left in the second period against Philadelphia and both saw doctors Wednesday to assess their issues.

To compensate for Merzlikins’ absence, Laine was moved to injured reserve on Wednesday and rookie goalie Daniil Tarasov joined the team on emergency recall from the Cleveland Monsters to handle the backup role behind Joonas Korpisalo.

The number of players out is now eight, with the possibility of Bemstrom making it nine if his situation worsens (he took part in practice on Thursday). Others out include Laine, Zach Werenski (shoulder), Jakub Voracek (upper body), Justin Danforth (shoulder), Nick Blankenburg (ankle) and Adam Boqvist (broken foot).

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins leaves the game with an apparent injury during the second period of a game against the Philadelphia Flyers.Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins leaves the game with an apparent injury during the second period of a game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins leaves the game with an apparent injury during the second period of a game against the Philadelphia Flyers.

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Other than Merzlikins, every player out is gone for long-term stints, including Werenski and Danforth done for the season with torn shoulder labrums.

“We went through this before two or three years ago,” Larsen said, referring to a mountain of injuries in the 2019-20 season that took out nearly half the roster midway through. “We had a lot, but these are long-term injuries. It’s not ‘week-to-week.’ It’s not ‘day-to-day.’ This is the difference I’ve seen. It’s like, ‘They might not be available for a long time.’ I haven’t seen that.”

The consistency of this injury spate is also startling.

Beginning with Voracek’s injury Nov. 4 in the first of back-to-back losses to the Colorado Avalanche in Tampere, Finland, the Blue Jackets lost players to injuries in five straight games. That included three leaving early in the Blues Jackets’ 5-2 victory over the Flyers last Thursday at Nationwide Arena and three more in the rematch Tuesday.

Erik Gudbranson, who sustained an upper-body injury in the first game against Philadelphia, only missed Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss at the New York Islanders before returning to play in the second game against the Flyers.

“It’s no fun going through what we’re going through, but it’s the reality of what we’re going through,” Larsen said. “There’s no point in hiding from it. We’re going to go play.”

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Marcus Bjork skates around Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim.Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Marcus Bjork skates around Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Marcus Bjork skates around Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim.

Marcus Bjork impressing in first NHL action

Facing Montreal was only the third NHL game for Bjork, who was recalled last week due to the Jackets’ defenseman shortage. Since getting the nod, the 24-year-old Swedish blue-liner has capitalized on his first NHL opportunity. Bjork scored his first NHL goal Saturday against the Islanders, added his first assist Tuesday against the Flyers and has impressed the Blue Jackets’ coaching staff.

“He looked a little bit slow (in training camp) and I think it was because he was just processing the game … and it’s a different game (in the NHL),” Larsen said. “I think the hardest thing for guys when they come over (from Europe) is just the time and space is gone.”

Bjork is now checking over his shoulder to see what plays can be made on dump-ins to his corner of the defensive zone, rather than trying to get his body turned around the way he might on larger European rinks. He’s also making other decisions faster.

“That’s the difference I see is that he’s getting to spaces quicker and he’s making those reads quicker,” Larsen said. “Then he’s executing it.”

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Blue Jackets injury plague continues to worsen

Source: Yahoo Sports

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