COLUMBUS — Patrik Laine will return to the Columbus Blue Jackets lineup against the Nashville Predators at Nationwide Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; BSOH, BSSO, ESPN+, NHL LIVE).
The forward missed 19 games because of an oblique strain sustained against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 3. He also spent time in Finland following the death of his father, Harri, in November.
“It’s been a frustrating two months sitting on the sideline and just watching other guys play and not being able to help,” Laine said Thursday. “I’m excited to play and definitely ready.”
He had been lobbying the coaching staff to play after participating in four practices since the NHL returned from the holiday break.
“I’ve been all over them, trying to tell them I want to play and I’m ready to play,” he said. “But I kind of I understand what they’re talking about [not rushing back]. They want me to be 100 percent sure when they put me in.
“Apparently now they are. I am 100 percent ready. Yeah, I was all over them. … Maybe a little bit too much.”
Laine said he is taking a positive approach from the extra practice time. The Blue Jackets haven’t played since Dec. 16.
“It’s been good to get some reps with the team,” he said. “I see it’s frustrating for the other guys who haven’t been able to play, but it’s kind of a good thing that there hasn’t been too many games I’ve missed.”
Forward Jakub Voracek said Laine’s return will be a boost for the Blue Jackets, who are 2-7-1 in the past 10 games.
“I’m excited for him because obviously he wants to be out there, he wants to play,” Voracek said. “It’s been a tough stretch for him with some personal stuff, along with the injury and everything.
“It’s good to have a player like that back because if he’s hot, he’s on, he’s one of the best players in the League.”
Laine will enhance the Blue Jackets’ power play with his shot from the left side. Columbus was 25.0 percent (6-for-24) on the power play in nine games with Laine, but 15.2 percent (7-for-46) in the 19 games he missed.
“It’s always dangerous for the [penalty] killers and it’s going to be a different look,” Voracek said.