Defensive Boost: Zach Werenski Returns To The Lineup, Andrew Peeke Keeps His Spot

By Jacob Nitzberg on February 13, 2021 at 4:12 pm
Jan 18, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski (8) checks Detroit Red Wings right wing Bobby Ryan (54) during the second period at Little Caesars Arena.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

In the three games that Zach Werenski has missed, the Blue Jackets have given up 13 goals.

However, they are 2-1 in those games, thanks to timely scoring from Jack Roslovic, Kevin Stenlund, Michael Del Zotto, and others. 

Despite their record without him, there's no question that the Blue Jackets are a better team with Werenski in the lineup, even with the tough start that he's endured this season. That's why it was such a big blow when Werenski was injured in the third period of a 4-3 win over Dallas on February 4th. 

It was deemed a lower-body injury by the club. Werenski missed the next two games against the Hurricanes. He skated by himself on Wednesday during practice, then accompanied the team on their trip to Chicago, but didn't play on Thursday. He fully practiced on Thursday, and John Tortorella confirmed after practice that Werenski would draw in tonight.

""I feel good. I'm ready to go, ready to play," said Werenski today. "I don't think anything's going to hold me back tonight, otherwise I wouldn't be playing."

With Werenski back, the Blue Jackets will hopefully be more cohesive defensively. They aren't trying to get into shootouts, like Thursday's wild, 6-5 win over the Blackhawks. The Blue Jackets want to play their game, which is a defensively strong, physical brand of hockey.

"We're trying to win games 3-1 or 4-1, we're not trying to win games 6-5," said Werenski. "But at the end of the day, it's a find a way league, and you have to find ways to win, and we've been doing that so far this year."

With Werenski making his return to the lineup tonight, someone has to make way. That'll be defenseman Scott Harrington, who performed admirably in three games, tallying 1-1-2 while averaging 15:12 of ice time per game. 

Since it's Harrington making way, that means that Andrew Peeke has earned another game. The second-year defenseman was very impressive on Thursday night against the Blackhawks. He tallied an assist on Del Zotto's game-tying goal and was +2 in 17:40 of ice time. 

John Tortorella was impressed with Peeke's play, especially after the defenseman hadn't played in a game for 11 months. 

"He gave us some good minutes...for the amount of time that he's been off from playing a competitive game, I thought he gave us some really good minutes," said Tortorella. Peeke will play with Del Zotto again tonight, in a pairing that shows a significant amount of promise.