Just when the Columbus Blue Jackets needed him the most, top-line center Derick Brassard will be lost for two to three weeks with an injured hand.
The club, battling to remain in the Western Conference playoff race, placed Brassard on injured reserve on Thursday.
"It's too bad because Derick's been playing so well for us, really starting to come into his own as a top-flight centerman," coach Scott Arniel said after Thursday's practice.
Brassard was injured early in the first period of Wednesday's night's 4-3 shootout loss at home against the Los Angeles Kings. That defeat garnered the Blue Jackets a point, but left them six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
The rest of his teammates felt the impact of the loss of Brassard, who has career highs with 14 goals and 25 assists in 57 games.
"He's been playing really well," defenseman Kris Russell said. "The puck seems to go through him when plays are being made. So that's a huge loss."
Goalie Steve Mason said others will have to pick up the slack.
"He's been on a bit of a roll," Mason said. "When he gets the confidence he's a great player. We'll have to find a way to work around it, but hopefully he'll have a quick recovery."
The sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft, the 23-year-old Brassard is tied for the club lead with five power-play goals, is tied for second in assists and in game-winning goals (three), and is third in both goals and points.
General manager Scott Howson said he did not plan to make any call-ups or trades to fill the hole left by Brassard's absence.
"We're always going to try and improve the team," he said, "but I don't foresee anything stopgap, no."
He said with veteran Ethan Moreau returning after missing 16 games with a rib injury, and Derek Dorsett coming back after being out a couple of games since sustaining a head injury last week, the club will get by with its current personnel.
Howson also said that forward R.J. Umberger, who sustained a lower-body injury in Wednesday night's game, was expected to play when Columbus plays at the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night.