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McElhinney Injury Could Test Goalie Depth

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Backup goaltender McElhinney has been placed on IR, and the team appears ready to roll with Anton Forsberg as its backup while he is out.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Foligno was just trying to swat away a cross-ice pass.  Instead, he missed the puck, couldn't stop his momentum, and crashed into Curtis McElhinney, the backup goalie for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

McElhinney stayed down in his crease for a few moments before being helped off the ice.  On Sunday, the Jackets placed CMac on injured reserve and called up rookie Anton Forsberg from Springfield.  McElhinney is expected to miss a week, but head/neck injuries can be tricky sometimes.

Goalie depth past Bob and CMac was a bit of a concern coming into camp.  Both Forsberg and Oscar Dansk, the two goalies in AHL Springfield, are very young and have no NHL experience.  The Jackets did not retain the services of more veteran netminders Mike McKenna or Jeremy Smith.  There were other veteran FAs as well, but the team went with McElhinney and the two young Swedish guys in Springfield.

Just five games into the season, that depth could be put to the test.  Instead of pursuing a free-agent option as a stop gap, the team will rely on Forsberg to back up Bobrovsky it appears.  Forsberg stopped 41 of 46 shots in his preseason action.

The plan was for Bobrovsky not to have to play both games of back-to-backs.  On the West Coast trip coming up, that plan will be put to the test.  One week from the injury wouldn't put McElhinney back with the club until after its upcoming San Jose / Anaheim back-to-back (Thursday in San Jose, Friday in Anaheim).  That double-header is followed up by a Sunday afternoon affair against the defending Stanley Cup champs.

When Bob went down last year, the team was forced to rely on McElhinney and McKenna for a month.  McKenna saw action in four games during the stretch.  This situation is slightly different - Bob is a workhorse, the #1 goaltender, and a former Vezina winner.

As I mentioned previously, neck and/or head injuries may not be so straightforward.  Concussion symptoms could arise days after the incident.  If this goes much longer than a week, Forsberg may see more than just 60 minutes of action.  There is another back-to-back on October 31st/November 1st and another one the weekend after that.

The club appears poised to do one of two things - either ride Bob for six games in a ten day stretch, or trust their 21-year old rookie with no NHL experience for a game or two.

Injuries have already forced the team to count on rookies on three forward lines early this season.  We will see just how much they trust their young goaltender in the coming weeks.