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Jackets say Horton has ‘degenerative’ back problem, no timetable for return

Columbus Blue Jackets v San Jose Sharks

SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 7: Nathan Horton #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets during a break in play against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on February 7, 2014 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky Widner/Getty Image)

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These are frustrating times for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Dealing with acrimonious Ryan Johansen contract negotiations on one front, the club is also faced with Nathan Horton’s problematic health -- and on Thursday, GM Jarmo Kekelainen gave a bleak update on Horton’s ailing back.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Horton has yet to skate during this training camp because of what general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has called a “degenerative” back condition, albeit one, he has said, that generally plagues almost everyone who has played hockey.

Kekalainen today reiterated that Horton’s injury is one that the club believes can be remedied by a continued course of core strengthening. It is not clear when Horton might be able to resume hockey activities, and no one with knowledge of the injury has ventured to even guess at a timetable.

“Everybody is different, obviously, because there is pain involved and all kinds of things involved with that,” Kekalainen said. “I think Nathan Horton is probably more frustrated than anybody right now as far as trying to find a way to get stronger and get back to being able to play again.”

Horton, 29, has been sidelined for nearly all of his career in Columbus, which began last summer after signing a lucrative seven-year, $37.1 million deal. The Jackets inked Horton knowing he’d need extensive time to recover from shoulder surgery; as such, he didn’t make his debut until January but was a solidifying presence upon joining the lineup, posting 18 points in 35 games on the club’s top line with Johansen and Boone Jenner (Horton was noticeably struggling in the goalscoring department, though, tallying just four times.)

In April, injury struck again. An abdominal issue, and subsequent surgery, ended Horton’s campaign prematurely and he missed all of Columbus’ spirited opening-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh. Though he was thought to be healthy and cleared for training camp this fall, another health setback has forced him to miss time.

Columbus isn’t putting a timetable on Horton’s return but, given his lack of participation in camp and preseason games, it’s very likely he’ll be unavailable when the Jackets open the regular season on Oct. 9 versus Buffalo.

"[Horton] is the only person that really knows where he is at and how much pain there is involved,” Kekelainen said on Thursday. “It’s impossible for anybody else to know what he is going through right now.

“He is suffering.”