Emil Bemstrom Gets Another Shot; Zach Werenski and Michael Del Zotto Set To Return From Injuries

By Jacob Nitzberg on February 25, 2021 at 12:07 pm
Jan 21, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) skates as Columbus Blue Jackets center Emil Bemstrom (52) controls the puck at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

John Tortorella wasn't impressed with Emil Bemstrom's start to the season.

After five games, Tortorella sent Bemstrom to the taxi squad, where he's been ever since.

"It's been good for me to see the game from above and slow it down a little bit," said Bemstrom. The Swedish winger had success in Europe over the offseason. He was loaned to HIFK in Liiga (Finland), and tallied 8-9-17 in 16 games there. At the time of his loan's completion, he had the fourth-most points in the league at the age of 21. The Swedish winger will get another opportunity in the Blue Jackets' lineup tonight, at the expense of Mikhail Grigorenko.

Bemstrom's got a plan for success tonight, and he knows what he has to do to stay in the lineup. "Just get more shots on net," said Bemstrom. "Get into the forechecks more than the first five games, win some puck battles, score some goals."

Elsewhere in the lineup, Zach Werenski and Michael Del Zotto are set to return to the lineup, after both defensemen missed Tuesday's contest against Chicago with lower-body issues. They practiced yesterday, and are a welcome addition as the Blue Jackets' depleted blue line finally gets some depth again. Scott Harrington and Andrew Peeke will make way as Werenski and Del Zotto return.

"I feel really good right now," Werenski said after practice yesterday. He's tallied 1-4-5 in 13 games this year while shooting a career-low 3.3%. Last year, the offensively-minded defenseman had 20 goals in 63 games while shooting 10.7%. His career average is 7.6%, so he should start seeing some shots go in soon as it regresses to the mean.

Del Zotto, who is also an offensive-minded defenseman, has notched 1-5-6 in 19 games, but his Corsi For percentage is only 42.9%, meaning that when he's on the ice, the Blue Jackets are only controlling the puck 42.9% of the time. Only Mikhail Grigorenko and Boone Jenner have a lower CF% than Del Zotto. 

It's not just Del Zotto that's struggling, though. Only one Blue Jacket who has played more than five games has a CF% over 50, and that's Eric Robinson, who comes in at 52.7%. Riley Nash is next, at 49.8%. That line has been the best at driving play for the Blue Jackets, and the other forwards should take notes.

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