The Blue Jackets appear to be close to becoming whole again.
Forward Sonny Milano and defenseman Ryan Murray took part in another full practice Monday and will be with the team on a two-game trip that kicks off Tuesday against the New York Islanders in Brooklyn.
Milano, out since leaving a game in Toronto on Jan. 8 with an oblique injury, could find himself in the lineup in the next two games. On Monday, he worked on the second line, alternating at left wing with Oliver Bjorkstrand. After Tuesday‘s game, the Jackets go to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
“It was nice to get a little . I’m getting there,” said Milano, who has eight goals and 13 points in 35 games this season.
“I’m real close, I don’t know how long, but I’m close. I have been skating for a while, so I’m in shape. I’m ready to go.”
Murray, out since late November with what is believed to be a back injury, took part in the full practice and worked on a fourth defensive pairing with Dean Kukan.
“It feels good to be on the ice again,” Murray said. “I feel pretty good right now; we’re just going to make sure. I’m trying to take it day by day, honestly.
“It has been frustrating; everyone just wants to play, and I’m no different. It has been a long process, and I just want to get back out there. That’s my only focus.”
Markus Hannikainen was either at AHL Cleveland or a healthy scratch for eight consecutive games before playing Saturday night in Nationwide Arena. The 24-year-old winger played 13 shifts on the fourth line, which got extended minutes.
It appears Hannikainen will be back Tuesday against the Islanders.
“I felt good, had fun, and it was good to be back,” he said Monday. “You have good days and not-so-good days, but you just have to be ready.”
John Tortorella said he and assistant coach Brad Shaw shared some gallows humor after Saturday’s 6-1 win over the New Jersey Devils as the Jackets snapped a seven-game run of allowing a power-play goal. New Jersey went scoreless on its lone power play.
“I told Shawsie, ‘We didn’t get scored on tonight,’” Tortorella said. “All joking aside, they have worked very hard at it.”
Tortorella put Jussi Jokinen on the penalty kill last week and said the veteran forward has helped by “adding some moxie.”
Jokinen, who is no stranger to being part of successful penalty kills over his career, said the Jackets had better kill off penalties.
“To be good at penalty killing, you have to be a smart player and know what the other team’s strengths are, what they like to run,” Jokinen said. “Having experience helps. We didn’t give up a PK goal for the first time in a long time, so that should give us some confidence. … It’s hard to be a good team without a PK. You can be a good team without a power play, but without a penalty kill? It’s really hard to do.”