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Columbus Blue Jackets still in NHL playoff hunt despite injuries

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OK, Columbus Blue Jackets fans: the hockey world will stop laughing at your injury-related misery. It’s easy to feel bad for you guys because the Blue Jackets have a darn good hockey team and deserve a break from the injury ninja.

The Blue Jackets have made the post-season just five times in the past 18 seasons and despite having to replace a few of the franchise’s greatest players this past summer, the team quickly began to close in on appearance No. 6. From Dec. 1 until Jan. 31, the Blue Jackets had the third-best record in the NHL with a 16-5-4 run and just 49 goals against in 25 games (the fewest allowed in that span). Since then? The Blue Jackets have gone 4-4-6 in the past 14 games with a minus-seven goal differential, making them a pure mid-pack team. If it wasn’t for a league-leading 14 overtime losses this season, this conversation would be significantly different.

Why, exactly? Per NHLInjuryViz, a website that tracks player injuries, only the Pittsburgh Penguins have been marred more by injury this season, with 18 players missing time with the Blue Jackets this season. Since Friday, goaltender Elvis Merzlikins and forwards Riley Nash and Oliver Bjorkstrand have sustained injuries, with Bjorkstrand ending his season early with a fractured ankle. Seth Jones, Josh Anderson and Alexandre Texier are out long-term and if they return, it won’t be until just before the playoffs at best. It digs deeper than that, but eight players currently sit on the injured reserve. Cam Atkinson’s original return date is creeping up, so that’s a bonus, at least.

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