Injuries Galore: The Blue Jackets Are Forced to Shuffle Their Defensive Pairings, Once Again

By Jacob Nitzberg on February 23, 2021 at 2:34 pm
Feb 15, 2021; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones (3) looks on against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jackets' defensive depth isn't what it once was.

Before the season started, the Blue Jackets had already shipped off Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara in an attempt to clear cap space. Now, they're dealing with injuries to Zach Werenski and Michael Del Zotto. David Savard missed last game with an illness, and Dean Kukan is deep in John Tortorella's doghouse. 

That's not exactly an ideal situation for a team that prides itself on its defense-first brand of hockey. Of course, the forwards have a defensive responsibility too, but with the constantly changing pairs on the blue line, it's tough to develop consistency.

MDZ Out, D-Pairs Shuffled (Again)

Del Zotto is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, so he's out tonight vs. Chicago.

"My worry's the top four (defensemen). You worry about everybody, but my worry is the top four. It's been inconsistent with our top four, which is a very important part of any hockey club," said John Tortorella after the team practiced on Monday. 

Savard will draw in for Del Zotto. Here's what the pairings are set to look like:

Gavrikov - Jones

Carlsson - Savard

Harrington - Peeke

With Carlsson's season debut on Thursday, the Blue Jackets have now had nine different defensemen suit up this season, and we're only 19 games into the season. Carlsson looked good in his debut, and he scored his first NHL goal, so he'll get a chance in the top four with Savard tonight, while Scott Harrington and Andrew Peeke will round out the bottom pair.

Korpisalo Will Get Lion's Share of Time In Net

Today, the Blue Jackets announced that Elvis Merzlikins was placed on IR retroactive to February 20th with an upper-body injury. The club called Matiss Kivlenieks up from the practice squad, and he'll back up Joonas Korpisalo tonight vs. the Blackhawks.

Korpisalo is set to get the vast majority of time in net while Merzlikins is injured. The Blue Jackets have a back-to-back this weekend in Nashville, so Kivlenieks will likely make his season debut starting one of those games.

"Korpi wants to play. He's waited a long time, and he wants to play as many games as he can...we have confidence in Kivi, too. We put Kivi in there, and that's one big thing, when we had all the injuries, and Kivi played, we could see (that) he can play. We'll go game-to-game as far as where we're at with our goaltending," said Tortorella.