Good News: Alexander Wennberg is Nearing a Return to the Blue Jackets Lineup

By Dan Dukart on November 27, 2017 at 10:15 am
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets are winners of six consecutive games – but that's not the last of the good news.

Alexander Wennberg practiced with the team on Sunday and appears to be inching closer to returning to an already-dangerous lineup.

While the club hasn't been clicking on all cylinders offensively, it's been encouraging to see the team find ways to win without its top center...or, at least, the player who entered the season as the No. 1 center. 

The Blue Jackets recently saw Lukas Sedlak, their most versatile center, rejoin the lineup, but the team is still short on depth at the center position. Pierre-Luc Dubois has filled in well on a line with Josh Anderson and Artemi Panarin, and perhaps he'll stick in the middle even when Wennberg returns. That line has been an even-strength juggernaut.

Nick Foligno finally ended his goalless streak, but Tortorella recently said that Foligno would benefit from a move back to his normal wing position. In order to facilitate that switch, the club would need someone to slot into that spot, and Wennberg would be that person.

When a team is on a six-game win streak, it's hard to argue that a return by any player, let alone one that struggled (by his standards) to begin the year, will make a significant difference. But Wennberg is an important piece for the Blue Jackets, and the team should benefit from his healthy presence. 

The bad news: Wennberg has just one goal and eight assists in 18 games this year.

His possession numbers have been encouraging, though, and his 55.66% CF% and 54.90% of scoring chances for percentage suggest that, more often than not, he's on the right side of the ice. On the other hand, his offensive zone face-off rate of 62.26% is the highest on the team among forwards (all stats 5v5), so he's been getting favorable opportunities to make a difference. 

When the time comes for Wennberg to be activated from injured reserve, the coaching staff will have to make some difficult decisions.

Markus Hannikainen and Jordan Schroeder figure to be fighting for the last roster spot, and one of the two is likely to be sent to the AHL. When Matt Calvert (who has also been skating, though not with the club) is deemed fit to play, the good-problem-to-have scenario is back in play.

It's no doubt that a healthy Wennberg makes the Blue Jackets a better team. Finding offensive chemistry has been an ongoing battle for John Tortorella and his staff, so plugging Wennberg into the lineup shouldn't do anything but help the team's offensive production. 

And that's good news for a team that already owns the NHL's longest active winning streak.

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