Anisimov returns in pivotal regular season finale
Facing a must-win game in what is sure to be a sold-out and rocking Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets will receive one more boost tonight.
Artem Anisimov returns to the Columbus lineup after missing five games with an upper body injury, both the player and coach Todd Richards confirmed this morning. Anisimov had been skating by himself while the team was on its road trip, and took the ice for the morning skate today with his teammates for the first time since his injury.
It's been a frustrating time for the 24-year-old Russian since he received a hit to the head from Minnesota forward Charlie Coyle less than 30 seconds in the Blue Jackets' 3-2 shootout win on Apr. 13 at Xcel Energy Center. Despite Coyle not receiving any supplementary discipline from the NHL's Department of Player Safety, the club's play in the meantime has made the recovery period a bit easier to handle.
The Blue Jackets went 5-1-0 on the two-week trip, giving themselves an opportunity to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in four years and the second time in franchise history.
"It's a big game, but we've playing big games for a month, month and a half," Richards said. "You can see it in their eyes...they're focused, and they've earned the opportunity to play in this big game. The fans have been patient and they've earned this opportunity, too."
Richards said he had no hesitation to insert Anisimov into the lineup, and he's "good to go" without limitations.
Much like the last time Anisimov returned after an injury, the plan for Todd Richards and his staff is to ease Anisimov back into game action and take regular shifts with the fourth line. That's what he did during today's morning skate, taking the majority of reps between Derek MacKenzie and Jared Boll.
Colton Gillies will be a healthy scratch tonight with Anisimov drawing back in.
This is what the Blue Jackets' lineup should look like tonight:
Prospal - Letestu - Gaborik
Comeau - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Umberger - Johansen - Foligno
MacKenzie - Anisimov - Boll
Johnson - Prout
Tyutin - Wisniewski
Erixon - Aucoin