(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets will continue their push for a playoff spot when they visit the New Jersey Devils on Thursday and they expect to have Marian Gaborik back in the lineup to help.
The Blue Jackets are playing their first game following the NHL's Olympic break and the layoff has given Gaborik time to recover from a broken collarbone. The injury forced the Slovakian winger to skip the Sochi Olympics, but he should be ready to go on Thursday.
Gaborik, who hasn't played since Dec. 21 against Philadelphia, has skated in only 18 games this season, recording five goals and seven assists during his injury-plagued campaign.
"I worked hard over the (Olympic break) to get back, and hopefully it's not going to take me too long to get into game shape," Gaborik told his club's official website. "I feel pretty good out there; I'm looking forward to this ... it's been a while. It's going to be a tough stretch, but every team is in the same situation."
The Blue Jackets, who made their one and only trip to the postseason in the spring of 2009, are three points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Columbus had lost two straight and five of its last eight games before the Olympics, but the club hopes to get its post-Sochi schedule off to a positive start tonight. The Blue Jackets are 3-0 against the Devils this season and can complete a season series sweep of their Metropolitan Division rivals on Thursday.
The Devils are only two points behind the Blue Jackets in the standings, but the club hopes to pick up the pace after the Olympics. New Jersey dropped three of four and five of its last seven games before the break.
Cory Schneider expects to get the start in net for New Jersey, taking on Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. Schneider has a career 6-2-1 record and a 2.05 goals against average against the Blue Jackets, while Bobrovsky has struggled to a 2-2-1 mark and a 3.74 GAA in five lifetime appearances against the Devils.
The Blue Jackets and Devils last faced each other on Dec. 27 in New Jersey. Columbus posted a 2-1 shootout victory in that meeting to earn its first ever victory in the Garden State. The Jackets were 0-3-1 with a tie in their previous five games in New Jersey.
Devils forward Patrik Elias expects to be in the lineup tonight after missing two games for the Czech Republic due to an illness picked up while in Sochi.
"Something was going around (in Sochi)" Elias told the Devils official website. "A few of the athletes got sick. I got a fever for four days, I couldn't really breathe much, I had bad bronchitis. Wrong time, but I'm happy to be back now and feeling well."