Ryan Murray‘s first season with the NHL and the Columbus Blue Jackets has been a strong one: the rookie has recorded three goals and 17 assists in 61 games, maintains a +3 plus/minus, and ranks third among all league rookies for blocked shots (he’s also ranked second for time on ice and is tied for fifth in power play points by a first-year defenseman).
General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced yesterday that Murray will miss four to six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee. This puts him pretty firmly out of play for the remainder of the regular season.
Columbus recently acquired defenseman Nick Schultz from the Edmonton Oilers, perhaps as a last-minute bid to beef up the Blue Jackets’ defensive lineup as they head into the final stretch of the season. Fedor Tyutin has also been left off the ice while recovering from an Olympic ankle injury. It remains to be seen whether Nikita Nikitin will play on Monday after sustaining an injury in Thursday’s game with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Early March is not an awesome time to be plagued by injuries in your defense, but when is an awesome time, really? As Johnson put it earlier this week, “We have to stay strong. Having [Tyutin, Murray, and Nikitin] would help, for sure. But that’s life. We can’t sit around here and say it would be better if we had them. We don’t, and the season’s not going to stop until they get healthy.”
The man has a point. Call-ups Dalton Prout, Cody Goloubef and Frederic St.Denis hope to help fill some of the empty shoes; Prout has played well for the Blue Jackets when called to serve, and logs big minutes when there are holes in the roster. And of course there’s David Savard, who has been a consistent, steady player all season. Columbus’ best bet is to push forward with what they’ve got — they’ve always been a team which operates best when they stick to their systems. The question is simply whether or not they’ll be able to adjust in time for the final playoff push.