The Columbus Blue Jackets announced on Thursday that head coach John Tortorella will be unable to coach the Metropolitan Division during the 2017 Honda National Hockey League All Star Game due to a family emergency.
Tortorella, who also had to miss the Blue Jackets final game before the break said, “Regrettably, there is a personal matter that requires my immediate attention that will require me to leave the team temporarily and miss the all-star game in Los Angeles. The decision was not made lightly as representing the Columbus Blue Jackets is something that I am very proud of, but it is the right decision for my family and me. I appreciate I appreciate the support of our organization and the National Hockey League and my hope is to be back with the team next week.”
Blue Jackets assistant coaches, Brad Larsen and Brad Shaw will run the team in Tortorella’s absence. The Jackets who were on the road in Nashville, Tennessee, fell to the Nashville Predators 4-3 in the final game before the break.
Tortorella added, via the Blue Jackets Twitter, “I appreciate everyone who has reached out to me this evening with their concerns about my family. My family is fine. We are just dealing with a situation that is personal and very important to us, but I will leave it at that. I will be back with the team very soon.”
Blue Jackets forward, Cam Atkinson was added to the roster for the Metropolitan Division on Thursday as well. Atkinson will replace injured Pittsburgh Penguins forward, Evgeni Malkin.
Atkinson, 27, is tied for second in the NHL in goals with 24 and seventh in points with 46. He has five game winning goals for his Blue Jackets, as they trail only the Washington Capitals, for second place in the division.
Atkinson will join his teammates, goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky and defenseman, Seth Jones on the roster for the Metropolitan Division.
When told of being named to the roster, Atkinson joked, “I mean, I either knew I was getting traded or I was getting the [all-star] nod. No, but it was special. I was actually pretty tired. I was about to go to bed and [Blue Jackets general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen] called me around [11:00 PM Wednesday] and just congratulated me. It was cool.”
He continued, “It is obviously very special, very humbling. Just to be playing with the best players in the world, it is going to be fun. I am going to take it all in and really enjoy the moment.”
Malkin did not play in the Penguins final game before the break at Boston, as they fell to the Boston Bruins 4-3, due to a lower-body injury. His 54 points are good enough for third in the NHL, one behind Sidney Crosby and four behind Edmonton Oiler captain, Connor McDavid.
The 2017 Honda NHL All Star Weekend opens on Friday night, at 9:30 PM with the NHL100, presented by Geico, followed by the 2017 Coors Light NHL Skills Competition on Saturday night, at 7:00 PM. The 2017 Honda NHL All Star Game will take place on Sunday at 3:30 PM.