The Columbus Blue Jackets have been getting Vezina-type goaltending for the last month, but haven’t even had their presumed starter healthy. Elvis Merzlikins took over the net and is performing at an All-Star level, but now the real All-Star, Joonas Korpisalo, is on his way back. Korpisalo, who hasn’t played since the end of December, has been loaned to the AHL for a conditioning stint as he prepares to return to action.
The 25-year old has missed 22 games with a knee injury, but actually wasn’t placed on injured reserve until today. That allowed the Blue Jackets to send a goaltender down on off days to keep them fresh, while Merzlikins handled almost all of the NHL work.
Before his injury, Korpisalo had been playing extremely well. After a shaky start as the No. 1 goaltender in Columbus, he had posted a .932 save percentage over his last month with a 7-2-3 record. That earned him a nomination to the All-Star Game, though he could not attend. In his place, Merzlikins has kept up that incredible play, posting a .924 save percentage in 29 appearances including five shutouts.
When Korpisalo returns, the Blue Jackets will have a tandem with the ability to be one of the best in the league. Whether they decide to let them share the net is unclear, but after such a frustrating season injury-wise, it will be nice to have some added depth at the position.
Kole Sherwood has also been assigned to the Cleveland Monsters.