In spite of the fact that it looked very much like the Columbus Blue Jackets would be forced to come into Game 5 without one of their top defensemen in the lineup, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella will have his full contingent of defensemen to work with when they take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in what will be the deciding game in this series.
Tortorella spoke with reporters ahead of the final game in this series on Sunday, the only series in the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round to be pushed to the 5 game limit, and dropped during some big nuggets of information during his press conference. The biggest question on the mind of every hockey fan in Columbus focused in on the status of defenseman Zach Werenski after the Blue Jackets blue liner went missing in the latter stages of Game 4. Tortorella was able to provide a surprising update on Werenski indicating that he would in fact be suiting up for Game 5, a huge relief for Blue Jackets fans who had good reason to suspect that he might not be available in this one.
Although we never received official confirmation regarding Werenski's status it has now been widely reported that he suffered an upper body injury at some point during Game 4, and there was good reason to suspect he would be missing in Game 5 as well. On Saturday it was reported that Werenski would be undergoing an MRI and that his status was up in the air for the deciding game, but luckily for the Blue Jackets he would appear to be relatively ok based on this news.
Tortorella added that Ryan Murray would also be in the lineup this evening and in the case of both defensemen you have to wonder how well they will perform under the circumstances. Although Werenski was glued to the bench late in the game the often injury prone Murray missed the game entirely, so I suspect that he will be at less than 100% coming into this game.
Last but not least there were also questions surrounding the Blue Jackets goaltending situation with Joonas Korpisalo getting the starts over Elvis Merzlikins who had a strong showing for the Blue Jackets late in the season. Perhaps unsurprisingly in this case Tortorella has chosen to go with Korpisalo once again, a solid choice given the fast that Korpisalo has thus far been very effective for the Blue Jackets in this series.
Update: It sounds like Tortorella's decision may have been influenced by more than just Korpisalo's experience. it sounds like Merzlikins has been injured.