Steve Mason stepped in brilliantly when Columbus needed help in net. Now, the Blue Jackets are hoping fellow youngster Nikita Filatov is ready to fill a scoring void.
With Rick Nash out, the Blue Jackets are counting on Filatov to build on an outstanding game as they face the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
Mason, a 20-year-old rookie, has gone 15-9-1 with a 1.75 goals-against average in 25 games since being called up from AHL Syracuse on Nov. 4, putting Columbus (20-18-4) in contention for its first playoff appearance. He was brought up after veteran Pascal Leclaire struggled, and now leads the league with six shutouts.
Columbus, though, has had trouble scoring at times this season, averaging 2.60 goals. Putting Nash on injured reserve won't help the Blue Jackets' cause.
Nash, named to the Western Conference All-Star team last week, has a lower-body injury. The four-time All-Star winger has 17 goals and 22 assists in 40 games.
Six regulars are out for Columbus, not including the injured Leclaire (ankle), so young players and role players have needed to fill in. The injury list includes three of the team's top six scorers.
Filatov gave the Blue Jackets a boost in a 4-2 win over Minnesota on Saturday, becoming the first Columbus rookie to score three goals.
"He's a scorer and he looks like a scorer on the ice," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He's a smart, smart offensive player. He positions himself, offensively, really well. He finds holes other people don't look for."
The 18-year-old Russian winger scored eight goals at the recent junior world championship to lead Russia to the bronze medal. He was recalled soon afterward by Columbus and now has four goals in six career games.
Mason, meanwhile, continued his strong play with 21 saves.
He made 23 saves in Columbus' 6-1 win over Colorado (22-19-1) on Jan. 2. The Blue Jackets outscored the Avalanche 10-3 in two meetings earlier this season - both at Colorado.
Mason will likely be in net again, contending with Avalanche winger Wojtek Wolski, who was named the NHL's First Star of the Week on Monday. He led the NHL last week with six points (four goals, two assists), including two game-winning scores, as Colorado went 3-0-0.
Wolski had a goal and an assist in the Avalanche's 5-3 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday. David Jones had two goals and an assist, and Ryan Smyth added a goal and an assist for Colorado.
"The whole team has been pitching in," said Wolski, whose three-game goal streak ties a career high.
With its offense clicking, Colorado was able to win despite giving up more than two goals for the first time in four games.
But Andrew Raycroft made 21 saves for his seventh straight win. Raycroft, who is expected to make his fourth straight start Tuesday, is 9-1-0 with a 2.57 goals-against average in 11 appearances this season.