The Columbus Blue Jackets have lost goaltender Elvis Merzlikins for some time. The 25-year-old is recovering from a concussion suffered against the Ottawa Senators. Alison Lukan of The Athletic broke the news regarding the injury early Saturday evening.
I’m told Elvis Merzlikins is recovering from a concussion after hitting back of his head on the ice in Monday’s game vs Ottawa. Believed to be mild, but you have to manage recovery from head injuries carefully. #CBJ
— Alison (@AlisonL) March 1, 2020
Elvis Merzlikins Out of Lineup With Concussion
Merzlikins has surged over the past several months. He posted save percentages below .900 in both October and November but was above .910 since the start of December. He took over the starting job earlier in 2020 when Joonas Korpisalo was hurt late in 2019. Merzlikins’ recent play has pushed his 2019-20 save percentage to .922 and his goals-against-average to 2.39.
The Latvian was originally a third-round pick in the 2014 Draft. This is his first year in the NHL but has been a memorable one. Merzlikins only played in two games with Columbus’ AHL affiliate in Cleveland but didn’t have much trouble there either. He posted a .949 save percentage and 1.52 goals-against in just two games.
What This Means for the Future
Korpisalo is back and will handle the primary starting duties while Merzlikins recovers. The five-year veteran has been with Columbus since 2015-16. 2019-20 has been good to the 25-year-old with 18 wins, a .911 save percentage and a 2.56 goals-against-average. He, like Merzlikins, has done well playing behind Columbus’ collection of defenders that includes three entry-level contracts. 23-year-old Matiss Kivlenieks will support Korpisalo while Merzlikins recovers. He has started in four games with a save percentage of .898 and 2.95 goals-against-average.
The team will proceed cautiously with Merzlikins’ head injury. The league has been criticized this year on how it handles concussions, so the Blue Jackets will not take chances with their promising goaltender. Merzlikins will reach free agency this summer but it is unlikely this concussion hurts his contract negotiations. The thing that hurts Columbus the most is that this injury comes with the team locked in a battle for a playoff spot. They are four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division. A long recovery will impact the Jackets’ chances to reach the postseason for a fourth consecutive season.