As we all know, Marian Gaborik has missed the last 23 Blue Jackets games and the Olympics after sustaining a broken collarbone on December 21 against Philadelphia. There was talk before the Olympics that he could play, as he had done some skating with the team prior to the break. It was determined, however, that he wasn’t ready for full contact.
As of today, that news has changed. Gaborik has been cleared for contact, and is taking part in team skating and practice while the Olympics finish up. The hope is to have him back on the ice for the Jackets’ first game after the Olympics on February 27th.
With the return of Gaborik so imminent, a lot needs to be figured out in regards to the CBJ lineup. Which forward will be sent down to Springfield? Who will Gaborik play on a line with? Will he replace someone on the top line, or be sent farther down the roster? None of these questions can be answered yet of course, but it’s interesting to think about. My guess as to who will be sent down would be Corey Tropp. Since both Gaborik and Tropp are right wingers, and Tropp is the last player on the Jackets’ bottom line, it would make sense. Gaborik has 12 points in his 18 games with the Jackets this season, while Tropp has only contributed 10 points in 40 games. This seems the most likely scenario upon Gaborik’s return.
So, for the fun of it, let’s assume Tropp is the one sent down. What will the lines look like. The current roster lines are as follows: Nick Foligno, Ryan Johansen, R.J. Umberger; Boone Jenner, Artem Anisimov, Nathan Horton; Matt Calvert, Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson; and Derek MacKenzie, Mark Letestu, Corey Tropp. So, if Tropp was sent down and Gaborik simply replaced him, he would play on the right wing with MacKenzie on the left and Letestu in the center. However, I doubt it will turn out like that.
The most likely pairing for Gaborik is to have Artem Anisimov play center with him. These two played together on the New York Rangers before being traded to Columbus, so the familiarity was already there. Gaborik played on Anisimov’s line for most of his games with the Jackets prior to his injury, so it is likely he will play on that line again. Currently, Nathan Horton occupies the right wing on Anisimov’s line, with Jenner on the left. This makes sense because Horton didn’t make his debut with the Jackets until after Gaborik was injured, so in effect Horton took over Gaborik’s place on Anisimov’s line.
So, if Gaborik comes back and is placed on Anisimov’s line, who will Horton play with? I personally think he should replace Umberger on the line with Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen. Johansen is having a break-out season with the Jackets, and I think it would be good for him to play with a veteran player like Horton. Johansen could learn a lot from him.
Of course, no one knows what will happen when Gaborik rejoins the Jackets lineup, but it will interesting to watch the roster shuffle, and see who comes out on top! Hopefully, wherever Gaborik is placed, he will begin to generate some offense and help the Jackets make the final push to the playoffs this season.