Blue Jackets notebook: Game against Blackhawks could be last as division foe
The Chicago Blackhawks likely will play in Nationwide Arena tonight as a Central Division opponent for the last time.
The Blue Jackets are likely leaving the Central Division next season, bound for the Eastern Conference under a realignment plan that is expected to be approved this week.
The Jackets won back-to-back games against Detroit last weekend in what could be their final games as members of the Central. Tonight, the Blue Jackets play the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationwide Arena in what could be their final time as division rivals.
“Record-wise, they’re the best team in the league,” coach Todd Richards said. “To me, this is Muhammad Ali. You always want the title bout, you want the title shot. You want to step into the ring. We get to do it (tonight) for the last time.”
The Blue Jackets have lost three times to the Blackhawks this season, all by one goal: 3-2, 1-0 and 4-3 in overtime.
“We’ve played well; they’ve played well,” Richards said. “Really, all three games have been good games. They’ve had a bit of an edge as far as scoring chances, but that’s the danger that they possess with their personnel. “We were playing good hockey when we saw them last (March 1), but we’ve reached another level. And I still think we have room to get better.”
Under the realignment plan, the Blackhawks would remain in the Western Conference, meaning the Jackets would play them twice a season. The Red Wings are heading to the Eastern Conference along with the Jackets, but to different divisions. This means they would play three times.
Murray on the mend
Defenseman Ryan Murray, the Blue Jackets’ No. 2 overall pick in June, could be in Columbus as soon as next week to begin the next level of rehabilitation after shoulder surgery in January.
“Everything has been good, he’s doing really well,” said Rick Valette, Murray’s agent. “He’ll be ready to go (for training camp) in September.”
Murray was injured on Nov. 16 when he extended his left arm to break a backward fall. Surgery was delayed two months to allow swelling to subside in the shoulder.
Prospect Boone Jenner was voted “hardest-working player” and “best faceoff player” in the Ontario Hockey League for the second straight season, based on voting by league coaches. He was voted second-best body checker, too.
He has 44 goals, 37 assists and a plus-23 rating in 55 games with Oshawa. The Blue Jackets could recall him when Oshawa is eliminated from the OHL playoffs.
NHL clubs had a 5 p.m. deadline yesterday to vote on the realignment plan. The plan requires approval from 23 of 30 teams to pass. The league could make an announcement soon. … Richards would not divulge his starting goaltender for tonight. Steve Mason started the first three games this season against Chicago. Sergei Bobrovsky has only one career start against Chicago: On Jan. 21, 2011, he stopped 30 of 31 shots for Philadelphia in a 4-1 victory at United Center. … The Blue Jackets recalled defenseman Cody Goloubef from Springfield on an emergency basis, suggesting one of the Blue Jackets’ regulars might not play.