Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella has done his best to right the ship in Columbus, but his team is going to have to face a big hurdle in December as starting netminder Sergei Bobrovsky will miss the next three weeks with a lower-body injury.
Bobrovsky, 27, suffered the injury in Tuesday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Kings — a game the Blue Jackets were leading 2-1 on the strength of Bobrovsky’s 33-save performance before he had to be leave with less than six minutes remaining in the third period. The specifics of the injury are unknown, but Bobrovsky has missed periods of time in each of the past two seasons with a groin injury.
There were signs as early as Wednesday morning that Bobrovsky’s injury was significant enough to hold him out of at least some game action. The Blue Jackets called 21-year-old netminder Joonas Korpisalo from the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters Wednesday well before the announcement of Bobrovsky’s injury was made. Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said Korpisalo has been one of the best netminders in the AHL this season — he has a 5-4-2 record and two shutouts with a .928 save percentage and 2.12 goals-against average. However, it’s not likely he takes the starting job with Bobrovsky on the shelf.
Starting duty will instead fall to backup netminder Curtis McElhinney, who stepped in and took the loss against the Kings Tuesday evening. McElhinney, 32, has been a backup in Calgary, Anaheim, Ottawa and Phoenix before landing in Columbus. Over his three seasons with the Blue Jackets, McElhinney has posted a 22-29-4 record and two shutouts with a .911 SP and 2.79 GAA.
"I liked the way he responded in a very difficult situation and he's played well," Tortorella said, via BlueJackets.com. "We're very comfortable with (McElhinney) in net and we'll go (from) there."
One of the more disappointing things about Bobrovsky’s injury is that he was beginning to turn his season around following an abysmal start. After going 2-8-0 in October with an .865 SP and 3.97 GAA, Bobrovsky posted a 8-3-0 recored in November along with a .940 SP and 1.82 GAA. In four games of action in December, he was 1-1-1 with a .958 SP and 1.26 GAA. McElhinney acknowledged just how well Bobrovsky was playing, too.
"You watch, and you can see his on top of his game,” McElhinney told Portzline. “That’s some of the best hockey I’ve seen him play and it’s a bummer to see a guy that’s playing like that and giving us a chance to win every night go down.”
The Blue Jackets have 10 games remaining in December and play their first game of the new year on Jan. 2. The three-week timeline would put Bobrovsky back in goal by Jan. 2, though it’s not a certainty he’ll be back for that contest.