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Laine out 2-4 weeks for Blue Jackets with triceps strain

Forward injured during practice drill, second-leading scorer for Columbus

by Craig Merz / Independent Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks for the Columbus Blue Jackets because of a triceps strain sustained when taking a shot during the last drill of practice Thursday.

The 24-year-old forward has 52 points (22 goals, 30 assists) in 55 games this season, ranking second on the Blue Jackets in goals behind forward Boone Jenner (25) and second in points behind forward Johnny Gaudreau (67; 18 goals, 49 assists).

Laine missed six games with an elbow injury, seven because of an ankle injury and two in COVID-19 protocol this season. He had six points (one goal, five assists) in his past three games and 14 points (five goals, 14 assists) in his past 10 games.

He had been working at center the past two games after suggesting to the coaching staff he would like to play the position after several other centers had been injured.

After 460 NHL regular-season games as a wing, Laine made his center debut in a 7-2 loss at the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday and played center again in a 7-6 overtime win at the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

"I was really looking forward to having [him] for a stretch, especially the teams that were playing," Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said Friday. "From what I saw, there's some advantages to having him there in the middle. Obviously, the second game was much better in the circles versus wins and losses there."

At Vegas, Laine had two assists and was plus-1 in 17:32 of ice time playing on a line with Gaudreau and Kirill Marchenko but was 3-for-17 (17.6 percent) on face-offs. In the following game, Laine had two assists, was plus-2 and was 5-for-9 on face-offs (55.6 percent).

"He was excited about [playing center]," Larsen said. "I think that's always a great thing when a player is enthusiastic about it. For the two games, I thought he did a pretty good job."

Selected by the Winnipeg Jets with the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Laine has 379 points (198 goals, 181 assists) in 462 NHL games with the Jets and Blue Jackets, and 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Columbus (23-41-7), tied with the San Jose Sharks for last in the NHL with 53 points, defeated the New York Islanders 5-4 in overtime Friday.

Center Sean Kuraly returned against New York after missing nine games with a left oblique strain, finishing with one shot on goal and one blocked shot in 13:51 of ice time. He was expected to be out the rest of the regular season. 

Hunter McKown had an assist and played 11:53 for the Blue Jackets in his NHL debut. The 20-year-old center signed a three-year, entry-level contract Monday after completing his junior season at Colorado College.

In addition, Larsen returned after missing two games because of a death in his family. Associate coach Pascal Vincent was acting coach in his absence.

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