The injury bug continues to plague the Blue Jackets, as the team announced on Monday that Boone Jenner would be out for the next four weeks after surgery to repair a fractured thumb. This leaves the Jackets with no fewer than 8 regulars out of the lineup, including a couple of defensemen who are done for the season (Zach Werenski and Jake Bean).
It’s an unfortunate bit of news for Jenner, who was off to a stellar start this season while centering Johnny Gaudreau on the team’s top line. His 11 goals are the most on the team, and he sits second to Gaudreau in scoring with 22 points. More importantly, he’s the captain of the team and his ability to battle, block shots, win faceoffs, and kill penalties will be sorely missed.
Boone was likely injured in the third period of the game against Florida last Tuesday; when a Patrik Laine wrist shot on the power-play hit him and deflected away from the goal. Boone was in obvious discomfort after the shot, but finished the game. He then played in both of the next two games – Thursday in Tampa Bay, then Saturday in Boston.
Kent Johnson took line rushes with the top line during the morning skate, a sign that the team may try him at center for the first time in his young career. He has 6 goals and 14 points in 27 games this season, but has shown obvious chemistry alongside Gaudreau. If he can stick and be productive at center, it would be a huge boost to this team’s chances.
The Jackets recalled center Josh Dunne from the Cleveland Monsters to help out down the middle. An undrafted signee, the 24 year old has 5 goals and 11 points in 24 AHL games this season. He saw 6 games with the Jackets at the end of the 2021-22 season and was held scoreless with a -1 rating, 4 penalty minutes, and 7 shots on goal. Look for Josh to step into a fourth line role with the team as needed.
Unfortunately, also absent from practice this morning is the team’s third line center, 19 year old Cole Sillinger. He left the game against Boston on Saturday and did not return. He will miss at least tonight’s game against Dallas, and is considered day to day at this point. This gives the team just two healthy centers from its opening night roster: Jack Roslovic and Sean Kuraly.
Cole had been coming on strong of late after a slow start; his third line play alongside Johnson and Kirill Marchenko was giving the team some needed scoring depth over the last few games. He would have surely been considered for more ice time with Boone now out, but this points to the kind of luck this team has faced this year.
As the injuries continue to pile up for the young Jackets, we have to wonder if this will indeed be our year to have the draft lottery odds turn to our favor. An opportunity to land a generational talent would be a huge win, and the only likely positive outcome from a season that has simply been not fair to this team.