The Blue Jackets have made a series of roster moves ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Islanders, as outlined in a team release. The team has placed defenseman Adam Boqvist on injured reserve with a shoulder strain, placed goaltender Elvis Merzlikins on IR with an illness, and forward Cole Sillinger on IR retroactive to November 26 with an upper-body injury. Columbus has recalled three players from AHL Cleveland in response: defenseman Nick Blankenburg and goalie Jet Greaves have been summoned on an emergency basis, while forward Emil Bemström is coming up on a standard recall.
Additionally, the club has activated netminder Daniil Tarasov from long-term injured reserve, although he will remain with AHL Cleveland on a conditioning stint. He had previously been assigned to the minors on an LTIR-specific conditioning stint.
Boqvist, who sustained the injury in last night’s overtime loss to the Kings, is expected to miss four weeks, per the team. It’s horrible timing for the 23-year-old, who was beginning to settle into a top-pairing role alongside Zach Werenski after starting his season on a rough note. Boqvist made just four appearances in the team’s first 18 games, sitting as a healthy scratch on a near-nightly basis. He’s now made nine straight appearances, however, and had logged over 20 minutes in each of his last three contests. Since his last healthy scratch on November 18 against the Capitals, Boqvist had three assists, a +7 rating and 11 shots on goal.
The 2018 eighth-overall selection by the Blackhawks had a strong showing despite dealing with injuries in Columbus last year, logging 24 points in 46 games (a 43-point pace) and leading qualified Blue Jackets defenders with a 48.7% Corsi share at even strength. It’s fair to claim he was misused out of the gate by head coach Pascal Vincent, likely costing the struggling Blue Jackets a handful of points in the standings. Boqvist’s possession numbers have once again been strong this season, posting a relative Corsi share of 2.1%.
His spot on the active roster is assumed by Blankenburg, who figures to make his season debut tomorrow with Erik Gudbranson out sick. The 25-year-old made his NHL debut for the Blue Jackets at the tail end of the 2021-22 campaign after signing as a free agent out of the University of Michigan and has made a strong offensive impact despite standing at just 5-foot-9 – quite a diminutive frame for an NHL defender. His play at the minor-league level has been excellent, notching three goals, eight assists and a +9 rating in 18 games with Cleveland.
Meanwhile, Merzlikins is expected to miss one week with an illness after making 35 saves on 39 shots last night. He will miss the team’s next three games and can return on December 14 against the Maple Leafs. Backup Spencer Martin will likely start two of them, with Greaves potentially making his season debut Friday against the Blues in the second half of a back-to-back. Martin, who has a 3.02 GAA and .902 SV% after being claimed off waivers from the Canucks in September, now has an extended chance to make his case to stay on the roster with Tarasov nearing a return to NHL play.
Bemström comes back up to the NHL roster after being demoted to Cleveland on November 16, clearing waivers in the process. To say the 24-year-old took his demotion well is an understatement – he lit up the minors with ten goals and four assists in eight games, including five multi-point efforts. After showing he absolutely does not belong at a second-tier level, it’s not surprising to see him back in Columbus today after depth winger Eric Robinson was dealt to the Sabres.
There is no change in Sillinger’s status, and he remains listed as day-to-day. It’s unclear when he’ll return to the lineup, although he’s eligible for activation at any time, given the existing length of his absence.