Cam Atkinson returns to the Columbus Blue Jackets' lineup on Monday for Game 4 of the first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Blue Jackets, needing a win, trail 2-1 in the seven-game series.
Atkinson and Kevin Stenlund are both expected to be in the lineup, with Devin Shore and Emil Bemstrom out of it, the team announced on Monday afternoon.
For the past two games, the team designated Atkinson – one of Columbus' top scoring threats – as "unfit to play." Nathan Gerbe has been out for the same amount of time with the same reason given for his absence.
Atkinson, after two games on the sideline, could offer a scoring punch to a team bereft of much offensive firepower, having been out-shot by double-digits in each of the past five games. The 31-year-old forward and alternate captain scored more than 20 goals for six seasons in a row (2013-14 to 2018-19), which included a 41-goal performance last year. He had 12 goals and 14 assists in 41 regular-season games in 2019-20.
In order to provide what Columbus hopes will be a boost, Atkinson needs to take his game up a notch.
In six playoff games this year, he has recorded two goals and three assists while averaging 23:50 on the ice per game. He didn't record a single shot on goal in the five-overtime Game 1 loss of this series, which was the last time he was on the ice.
Bemstrom's exit from the lineup comes after he missed a wide-open net in the first period of Columbus' 3-2 loss on Saturday.
“This is part of growing up in the National Hockey League,” Tortorella said on Sunday during CBJin30. “It’s a league where now guys are plugged right into the NHL where usually they are down in the American League learning a little bit there. It’s such a young league, these guys are coming in and it’s part of the process. Yeah, we would have liked to see him score the goal and I’m sure he didn’t get much sleep last night when he knows that there’s an open net and he doesn’t get it done.
“But we’re going to continue to work with him and eventually this will all work its way through. This is a great experience for him and it’s not always going to be successful, but we’re going to keep on teaching and go about our business with him.”