The Blue Jackets complete a quick two-game homestand tonight as they welcome Winnipeg to Nationwide Arena. It will be a chance for a bounce-back effort, as Columbus swallowed a bitter pill Tuesday night when New Jersey scored the second latest game-winning goal in regulation against the CBJ in franchise history with 1.4 seconds left in a 3-2 final.
What They’re Saying
Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of person?
If you want to look at the bright side, Columbus has reason to do so after each of the past two games. The Blue Jackets rallied for a 4-3 victory at Toronto on Saturday night, then battled another surefire playoff squad even for 59 minutes and 58 seconds Tuesday against the Devils.
The negative side? Well, those last two seconds. To be honest, 1.4 seconds, as that was the time on the clock when Ryan Graves slammed home New Jersey’s winning goal.
For the Blue Jackets, the key will be focusing on what went right against the Devils — that long stretch of time where they stood toe-to-toe with a good team — rather than the dispiriting ending.
“There’s positive signs,” head coach Brad Larsen said postgame. “I thought the back end played really well tonight. Consistency and that competitiveness and managing the puck, all the things we’ve been talking about, you have to live it. You have to do it every single day.
“It’s disappointing we lose, but there’s a lot of positive signs against a high-end team in the NHL.”
Defenseman Andrew Peeke agreed but was left to rue the breakdowns that happened to send the Blue Jackets home without a point.
“We did a lot of good things tonight,” Peeke said. “But we have to find a way to not let that happen with a second left. It stings.”
Know The Foe: Winnipeg Jets
Head coach: Rick Bowness (First season)
Season Stats: Goals per game: 3.19 (16th) | Scoring defense: 2.59 (3rd) | PP: 22.1 percent (15th) | PK: 83.4 percent (3rd)
The narrative: Winnipeg has been up and down the past few seasons, reaching the conference final in 2017-18, the first of four straight postseason appearances. But the Jets never did make it back to the final four in that span, then missed the playoffs altogether a season ago. The addition of Bowness has seemingly paid dividends, with the Jets in a playoff spot and playing as good defensively as any team in the league, but time will tell if this veteran group is ready to make a big run.
2022-23 leaders: The names are in many cases familiar, as the Jets are still led by longtime Winnipeg players Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler. In the case of Pierre-Luc Dubois, the name is more familiar considering the 2016 CBJ draft pick is a former Blue Jackets player. Connor leads the way with a 24-37-61 line, while Morrissey has been one of the best defensemen in the league this season with 56 points (11 goals, 45 assists), good for second among NHL blueliners. Scheifele’s team-best 32 goals are tied for eighth in the league, while Dubois (23-30-53) and Wheeler (15-26-41) have been solid up front.
In net, Connor Hellebuyck has again been one of the best in the league, as the 2019-20 Vezina winner is 25-15-1 with a 2.41 GAA, .924 save percentage and .588 goals saved above average per 60, which is third in the league. Backup “Big Save” Dave Rittich is 9-4-0 with a 2.52 GAA.
What’s new: Hellebuyck missed Tuesday’s win vs. Seattle with illness but the Jets still got their third victory in a row. The Jets have largely played good hockey of late, posting a 13-6-0 record over in the last 19 games while giving up just 48 goals in that span (2.53 per game). The Jets have been one of the best defensive teams in the league all season, bolstered by a penalty kill that has made it hard for teams to get free goals.
Trending: After a 4-1 victory in Winnipeg on Dec. 2, the Blue Jackets are 3-0-1 in the last four contests in the series.
Former CBJ: Dubois is joined by Sam Gagner, the former CBJ forward who has eight goals and 14 points thus far in 43 games, and Kevin Stenlund, who has three goals and five points in 26 games. Forward Jansen Harkins is also an Ohio native.
3 Keys to the Game
No sleepwalking; OK, we don’t expect the Blue Jackets to have a hangover after the way the last game ended, as pros are pros. Still, you can’t let one loss become two.
Get to the hard areas: Given Winnipeg’s impressive defensive numbers, you’ll likely have to pay the price to get the puck in the net.
Big guns: The Blue Jackets were led by their top producers in a win earlier this year against the Jets. Patrik Laine has to enjoy making an impact against his former mates, no?
3 Stats to Know
- Columbus is in for a battle for the team’s goal lead down the stretch. Jenner and Gaudreau lead the way with 15, with Laine and Kirill Marchenko right behind with 14. A darkhorse? Kent Johnson is now up to 11 tallies on the season.
- Marchenko’s first assist of his rookie season Saturday means he finished tied for the second most goals in NHL history before notching a helper. With 13 goals before that assist, he tied Pittsburgh’s John McKinnon (1926-27). In addition, his 14 goals are the most in franchise history for a player in his first 31 NHL games.
- Milestone watch: Sean Kuraly is set to play in the 400th game of his NHL career (48-64-112, 399 GP). … Mathieu Olivier is three games from 100 in his NHL career (6-10-16, 97 GP).
With Marchenko (14 goals) and Johnson (11) both in double digits, this is the third time in CBJ history that two rookies have at least 10 goals. The previous instances were 2000-01 (Serge Aubin and David Vyborny, each with 13) and 2016-17 (Pierre-Luc Dubois with 20 and Sonny Milano with 14). … Marchenko’s 14 goals are tied for fifth-most ever for a CBJ rookie with Milano (2017-18), and he is second in the league among rookie goal scorers behind only Seattle’s Matty Beniers (17). … Gaudreau (3-7-10) has points in eight of the last 10 games, and he ranks tied for ninth in the NHL in assists since Nov. 10 with 10-32-42 in the last 42 contests. … Johnson’s 26 points (11-15-26) are the 10th-most ever for a CBJ rookie with Derick Brassard (2008-09). He ranks tied for fifth in the NHL in goals among rookies and is also tied for fifth in points. … CBJ rookies lead all NHL teams in goals and place second in points with 32-33-65 in 53 games.
This Day in CBJ History
Feb. 16, 2007: Fredrik Norrena makes 29 saves to notch his third shutout of the season, blanking San Jose by a 3-0 score in Nationwide Arena.
Feb. 16, 2019: New Albany’s Kole Sherwood makes his NHL debut at Chicago, becoming the first Columbus-area native to play for the Blue Jackets and the fifth to play in an NHL regular season game. The Blue Jackets win 5-2 behind three-point nights from Artemi Panarin and Ryan Murray.
Feb. 16, 2020: Andrew Peeke scores his first career goal but the Blue Jackets drop a 4-3 decision at New Jersey in a shootout.
Projected Lineup (subject to change)
Johnny Gaudreau – Boone Jenner – Kirill Marchenko
Kent Johnson – Cole Sillinger – Patrik Laine
Liam Foudy – Jack Roslovic – Emil Bemstrom
Eric Robinson – Sean Kuraly – Mathieu Olivier
Tim Berni – Erik Gudbranson
Nick Blankenburg – Andrew Peeke
Gavin Bayreuther – Adam Boqvist
Scratches: Vladislav Gavrikov (trade-related), Gavin Bayreuther
Injured reserve: Gustav Nyquist (upper body injury, out indefinitely); Yegor Chinakhov (high ankle sprain, out six weeks as of Dec. 21); Carson Meyer (oblique, out six to eight weeks as of Jan. 11); Jake Bean (shoulder, out four to six months after surgery in November); Jakub Voracek (upper body, out indefinitely); Zach Werenski (shoulder surgery, out for season); Justin Danforth (shoulder surgery, out for season)
Roster Report: Korpisalo goes into the net while everything else will be the same against the Jets, as Larsen said he didn’t feel the need to make any changes after two straight solid showings.