The Columbus Blue Jackets came limping out of the Olympic break with a couple of injuries to key guys on the blue line. Injuries to Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray, two very key blueliners, seemed to spell disaster for a defense corps that had been relatively healthy all season. In fact, it was the defense that was not bitten by the injury bug this season, unlike forward and goaltending. Despite these setbacks, the Columbus back-end has played quite admirably.
Tytuin was the first to go down when placed on IR with an ankle injury on February 24. Tyutin has been a defensive rock for the Blue Jackets every season in what now feels like 50 years. One injury seemed manageable, as there waiting in line was a rotation of Dalton Prout, Cody Goloubef, and Tim Erixon. Prout and Goloubef played solid in their returns to the big league club, and Tim Erixon saw plenty of warm-up skates but no action. At this point going into March the defense for Columbus looked to be fine.
It was the injury to Ryan Murray the first week of March that sent the front-office searching for solutions as the injury virus seemed to be spreading. Murry hurt his knee against Toronto March 3. At that point it didn’t appear serious to the public, but when Jarmo Kekalainen pulled a deal to bring veteran defenseman Nick Schultz to Columbus, thoughts changed. It came out Murry would require knee surgery and be out 4-6 weeks.
With two key defensemen out, it was a wise decision by Jarmo to bring in Schultz, a seasoned pro at 31 years old. Some experience with a stay-at-home style of play would benefit the core of blueliners the team had healthy. It seems this move has payed off. For one thing, James Wisniewski has been playing outstanding in the absence of his partner Murray. I can tell you personally that when word came out Murray would be out long-term I thought it spelled disaster for Wiz. I was wrong. He has stepped up his game defensively and offensively and is doing well. Even Nikita Nikitin is playing well despite not having his fellow countryman Tyutin in the lineup. Perhaps some time in Sochi did Nikki well. This team is showing its identiy, which is work hard and a next man up mentality, and as of this moment Columbus in on the inside looking out.