In a hockey season that has been full of twists and turns, the last to hit the Blue Jackets took place among the coaching staff this morning.
Assistant coach Steve McCarthy entered the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol after experiencing symptoms, and a subsequent test for head coach Brad Larsen also revealed he should also enter the protocol.
That means the Blue Jackets will be without both coaches starting tonight at Nationwide Arena against the New York Islanders. Associate head coach Pascal Vincent will lead the bench, assistant coach Kenny McCudden leading the forward group and assistant/development coach Jared Boll in charge of defensive pairs.
Don’t expect wholesale changes, however, for the Blue Jackets, as those leading the way are trying to do as much as possible to keep things simple and consistent.
“We’re not going to change all the systems, I can tell you that,” Vincent said. “Very consistent. We’ve all been part of it since day one. We know the systems, we’re just going to keep the same routine, the meetings at the same time. Everything is going to be as consistent as possible.”
For Vincent, he has plenty of experience as a bench manager, having spent the past five seasons as head coach of the Winnipeg AHL team as well as 11 seasons as head coach in the QMJHL. McCudden and Boll may be the ones with the biggest adjustments, but at the end of the day, hockey is hockey.
And after the past two seasons, adapting on the fly has become old hat for the Jackets and every other NHL player.
“Anyone who has been in the league for the past two years has been through a lot of adversity with COVID and last minute changes, postponements and cancellations,” Sean Kurali noted. “I think it’s something this group has gotten used to, and I think it’s going to be fine moving forward.”
3 game keys
Finish: The Blue Jackets had chances early in their recent loss to the Islanders, but couldn’t convert, then watched the game slip away. This time, they must face a loyal defensive team.
Shut it down: On the other hand, the Islanders are one of the worst performing teams in the NHL. Structure will be the key to keeping them out.
Home cooking: With just seven home games left this season, the Jackets have had some memorable nights in the barn this year. Why not add another?
With 117 home goals, Columbus is tied for ninth in the NHL in that regard. … P Defender Andrew Peek is set to play his 100th career NHL game tonight. … Patrick Laine is 19-15-34 in the last 26 games, plus 12 multipoint games in that span, while his seven game-winning goals are tied for eighth in the NHL. He will play his 399th NHL game tonight. … Zach Werensky has points in 14 of the last 18 games (4-13-17). … Olivier Bjorkstrand has an 11-9-20 line in the last 22 games and a 3-6-9 line in the last eight. His 23rd goal of the year on Friday in Winnipeg tied a career high. … Gustave Nyquist has a 3-6-9 line in the last 11 games and four shorthanded goals this season, tied for first in the NHL. … Jakub VoracekHis 43 assists are tied for ninth in franchise history. His 0.68 assists per game are the second-highest in a single season in franchise history, trailing just 0.75 from Artemi Panarin when he posted a club-record 59 assists in 2018-19. … The Blue Jackets set a new franchise record this year with 21 behind-the-scenes wins, which is also tied for second in the NHL. Columbus also has eight wins when trailing after two periods, tied with Florida for the most wins in the NHL and the second most in franchise history. … With 36 goals from defensemen, the Blue Jackets are tied for third in the NHL in the stats. … The teams split the season series, with Columbus winning a 3-2 overtime game at Nationwide Arena on October 21 and then losing 6-0 at Long Island on March 10.
(Subject to change)
Jakub Voracek – Jack Roslovic -Patrik Laine
Gus Nyquist – cole sillinger -Oliver Bjorkstrand
Eric Robinson -Sean Kuraly- Justin Danforth
Yegor Chinakhov – Brendan Gaunce – Emil Bemstrom
Vladislav Gavrikov -Andrew Peeke
Dean Kukan – Jake Bean
Gabriel Carlson – Adam Boqvist
Elvis Merzlikins (confirmed beginner)
Grooves : Gavin Bayreuther
Unavailable: Zach Werenski (upper body, day-to-day); Joonas Korpisalo (hip surgery, off season); Boone Jenner (return, week after week); Daniil Tarasov (hip surgery, off season); Alexandre Texier (permanent leave)
Roster report: Werenski will be out after leaving Saturday’s game due to a first-period check. Boqvist returns to the lineup, while Merzlikins will once again get the start in net.
This day in CBJ history
March 29, 2000: The team announces the formation of the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation, a public grantmaking charity that will orchestrate the team’s community development and fundraising programs.
March 29, 2003: Geoff Sanderson scores the first – and so far only – four-goal game in a 6-4 win at Calgary. Sanderson also adds an assist while Andrew Cassels posts a 1-4-5 line as the two also set a franchise record for points in a game.
March 29, 2012: Plagued by injuries in net, the Blue Jackets sign former University of Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick.
March 29, 2014: Ryan Johansen’s power-play goal in overtime gave Columbus a 3-2 victory over Carolina, moving the team closer to second place in franchise history.
March 29, 2016: 2015 first-round pick Zach Werenski signs a three-year entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets.
March 29, 2018: Rookie forward Pierre-Luc Dubois scores the fourth hat trick for the team of the month and the second in as many games in a 5-1 win at Calgary. The victory was the sixth straight win on the road for Columbus and the 12th victory in 13 games. Head coach John Tortorella won his 128th game, moving Todd Richards to No. 1 on the club’s all-time list.