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Preview: Jackets searching for two more points in rematch against Flyers

Another win could help Columbus tighten grip on second wild card

by Brian Hedger JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

GAME 61: BLUE JACKETS (30-25-5) AT FLYERS (31-19-10)

Location: Prudential Center, 7 P.M., Thursday

TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go (Jeff Rimer, Jody Shelley); NBC Sports Philadelphia,

Radio: 97.1 FM & BlueJackets.com (Bob McElligott)

PHILADELPHIA - They didn't play all that great, but the Blue Jackets ended a three-game winless skid with a 2-1 win Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils.

Ultimately, that's all that matters during a tight race for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference with just 22 games left in the regular season.

"It's two points," Columbus coach John Tortorella said. "I don't care how we do it, it's two points."

The Blue Jackets did it the hard way against the Devils, being outshot by a combined 20-6 margin in the final two periods and 31-19 in the game - which ended a string of nine straight games Columbus had outshot its opponent.

"We're certainly not trying to play that way, not getting shots on goal, but we did a fairly good job of checking for a number of minutes in the third period, when we just weren't generating much," Tortorella said. "You win games different ways. We have lost some games when we've been lights out, and tonight we win a game when, for a number of minutes, we had struggled. But you take the two points and get the hell out of town."

That's exactly what they did, too, after surging past the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders into the East's second wild card. The Blue Jackets have 65 points in 60 games, while the Hurricanes (60 games) and Islanders (61 games) each have 64 points.

The Devils (70 points) have a five-point lead on Columbus for the first wild card, while the Philadelphia Flyers (72 points) are ahead of the Jackets by seven points for third in the Metropolitan Division.

The stage is set for yet another big game between Metro teams Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center, where the Flyers came from behind Monday to defeat the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2, in overtime for their third straight win.

"That's where you make a name for yourself, is in the big games," Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones said. "It's not just the playoffs, but big shifts within a game, big moments. It's do or die. Every point counts at the end. I think it's going to be one of the tighter playoff races you're going to see from here on out. A point's probably going to decide it at the end, so we're going to need all we can get this season."

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Labatt Blue What We Learned: CBJ 2, NJD 1

Blue Jackets get goals from Jenner and Harrington, leaned heavily on Bobrovsky for the win

by Brian Hedger JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

NEWARK, N.J. - John Tortorella didn't care what it looked like, as long as it ended with two points in the standing for the Blue Jackets.

"I have to coach them on how they're playing, but now you're down to 23 games left," he said, prior to the Jackets' 2-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday at Prudential Center. "We have to cure ourselves, and maybe playing a lousy game out here but finding a way at certain times to make big plays to win the game. That's the way the league is."

That's the way the game was, too.

It wasn't always pretty for Columbus, which put just six shots on goal in the final two periods, but ending a three-game winless skid was a thing of beauty for the Blue Jackets (30-25-5) - who reclaimed the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.

After outshooting their previous nine opponents by a wide margin, the Jackets were outshot 20-6 in the final 40 minutes, 31-19 overall and didn't get their first shot in the third period until Zach Werenski sent a wrister to the net from 54 feet away.

It didn't matter, because Columbus flipped the script from its previous games this month - winning a game that could've been a loss. Asked after the game if it qualified as a "lousy" game the Blue Jackets won, Tortorella defined it a different way.

"I categorize that as a win," he said. "That's all we're concerned about right now, is finding ways to get two points, and we did tonight."

Columbus had outshot its previous nine opponents, which made Tortorella happy with the way they played in nearly every game. The problem was the Jackets went 2-6-1 during that stretch and lost their grip on both of the East's two wild cards.

This game was proof that finding ways to win is far more important than playing well, even though the ideal is to play great and come out on top.

"We have battled the consistency of making that next big play, and maybe finishing on a goal or getting the next big save or making the next big defensive play to win that game," Tortorella said. "We've been on the wrong side of that too much this year, and that's why you find us where we're at right now. We have had opportunities to win games, and we just have not done that consistently enough."

They did it Tuesday, but it was quite a task.

Boone Jenner gave Columbus a 1-0 lead in the first period, and defenseman Scott Harrington gave the Blue Jackets the lead again, 2-1, in the second - about 12 minutes after Taylor Hall tied it for the Devils to start the period. From there, Columbus leaned heavily on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 30 saves to rebound from a tough outing Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We don't have very many opportunities left [to bounce back]," Bobrovsky said. "The schedule dictates what we have to do. We win tonight, but the next game [Thursday in Philadelphia] is the biggest for us."

Here's what we learned:

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Preview: Blue Jackets looking to end winless skid in New Jersey

Tortorella: 'We're still right in the middle of it ... we're very fortunate.'

by By Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

GAME 60: BLUE JACKETS (29-25-5) AT DEVILS (31-20-8)

Location: Prudential Center, 7 P.M., Tuesday

TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go; MSG+

Radio: CD102.5 FM & BlueJackets.com

It's no longer about salvaging things like special-teams numbers or helping individual players recover from down seasons.

The Blue Jackets have just 23 games left, are currently outside the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference and need to start stacking wins and points each time they play. They're 2-6-1 in the past nine games, a stretch in which they've outshot every opponent by a wide margin, and they're winless in their past three games.

Regardless, Columbus has 63 points in 59 games and is just one point out of the East's second wild card, which is currently occupied by the Carolina Hurricanes - who have 64 points in 60 games.

"We're very fortunate," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said Monday, a day after Columbus lost 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nationwide Arena. "From where the [Metropolitan Division] was three months ago, I mean, everybody's come down to earth, including us, and we're still right in the middle of it. We're very fortunate. So, you look at it and say, 'We're still here.'"

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Practice Notes: Replacing Foligno's scoring, leadership won't be easy

Blue Jackets veterans plan to fill the void as a group, including Ryan Murray

by By Brian Hedger JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

JERSEY CITY, N.J. - As far as timing goes, it's not the most ideal point in the NHL season to lose the captain of a hockey team.

There is no good time for that to happen, but losing captain Nick Foligno now to a lower-body injury is quite a challenge for the Blue Jackets (29-25-5).

Columbus has 23 games left, sits one point out of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference and has three more games this week to break a three-game winless skid - including Metropolitan Division road games Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils (7 p.m., Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go, 97.1 FM) and Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"He's our leader, on and off [the ice], but guys will have to pick up the slack," forward Matt Calvert said Monday after practice. "We're going to have to lead by example, speak up and talk to the young guys as much as we can. He does a great job of that. And on the ice his point production, his goals … guys like myself are going to have to step up."

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#CBJ Social Roundup: February 19

PL3, Valentine's puns and a comeback kid; all that and more in this week's roundup.

by Anthony Allocco BlueJacketsNHL / BlueJackets.com

In the five days since the last roundup the team has played three games and is now getting ready for Metro Division matchups against New Jersey and Philadelphia this week. As the postseason pressure builds, Zach Werenski took the initiative to get a couple extra reps.

@stoolpresidente stacks the pads

Before the Feb. 13 contest against the Islanders, Werenski took a visit to the Barstool headquarters for a shooting challenge against Dave Portnoy, the company's founder.

Instagram from @zachwerenski: #Repost @spittinchiclets with @get_repost・・・" @stoolpresidente stuffed @zachwerenski in his back pocket on Tuesday... They don't call him the people's goalie for nothing"Not the result I wanted but fun time at @barstoolsports @spittinchiclets #rigged

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Columbus Blue Jackets place Kukan on IR, recall Dalpe, Murray

by BlueJackets.com Staff BlueJacketsNHL / BlueJackets.com

COLUMBUS, OHIO --- The Columbus Blue Jackets have placed defenseman Dean Kukan on injured reserve and have recalled forward Zac Dalpe and defenseman Ryan Murray (conditioning assignment) from the Cleveland Monsters, Columbus' American Hockey League affiliate, club General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced today. Kukan will miss at least one week due to an upper body injury suffered vs. Pittsburgh on Sunday.

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Full 60: Jackets fall 5-2 to Penguins

Despite 37-23 shot advantage, CBJ drop home Metro Division contest.

by Anthony Allocco BlueJacketsNHL / BlueJackets.com

Matchup: Pittsburgh Penguins (34-22-4, 72 pts.) @ Columbus Blue Jackets (29-24-5, 63 pts.)

Time: 6:00 p.m. EST.

Location: Nationwide Arena (Attendance: 19,100)

CBJ Starting lineup -- Forwards: Panarin - Dubois - Atkinson Defense: Werenski - Jones Goaltender: Bobrovsky

PIT Starting lineup -- Forwards: Aston-Reese - Crosby - Sheary Defense: Dumoulin - Letang Goaltender: Jarry

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What We Learned: PIT 5, CBJ 2

Penguins score early, force Blue Jackets to chase the game in another tough loss

by Brian Hedger JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

They played with more energy, but the Pittsburgh Penguins played with more poise than the Blue Jackets on Sunday at Nationwide Arena.

Columbus outshot its ninth straight opponent, by a sizeable margin (37-23), but lost again, 5-2, because of its inability to create enough goals off those opportunities. The Jackets also fell behind 2-0 seven minutes into the game and never fully recovered.

"It's a tough way to start, to be down 2-0 right away on, really, a couple of … just wrist shots," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said, referring to goals scored by forward Riley Sheahan at 1:41 and defenseman Brian Dumoulin at 6:57, both deflected into the net. "Give them credit. They did a good job, as far as they deflected a lot of pucks tonight."

Artemi Panarin cut the lead to 2-1 at 9:29 of the first, but Sheahan scored a second time to re-establish the two-goal lead, 3-1, less than two minutes later. Columbus (29-25-5) played catch-up the rest of the game, eventually dropping its third straight game in regulation.

"They create offense very smart," said Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who allowed five goals on 23 shots. "It's very challenging to play against them. [They're] very smart offensively. They're not [going to] just shoot the puck on net and just hope that it [will] go in."

Wennberg scored the other goal for the Blue Jackets, while rookie forward Zach Aston-Reese and forward Jake Guentzel scored the final two goals for the Penguins (35-22-4), who won their fifth straight game.

"I thought we did some good things," Tortorella said. "I'm not going to get into a long talk on it, but we had some opportunities. I thought we played hard. I certainly felt we had more energy, and I think our physical play picked up, also. I can look for all the good things and all that, but we lose, 5-2."

Columbus also lost two more players to injuries, as neither captain Nick Foligno (lower-body injury) nor rookie defenseman Dean Kukan (upper body) finished the game.

Here's what we learned:

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Preview: Jackets hoping victory against Penguins provides a spark

Two-time defending champions provide great test, challenge for Columbus

by By Brian Hedger JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

GAME 59: PENGUINS (28-19-10) AT BLUE JACKETS (29-24-5)

Location: Nationwide Arena, 6 P.M., Sunday

TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go; NBCSP, TVA Sports

Radio: 97.1 FM & BlueJackets.com

On the one hand, there couldn't be a worse time for the two-time defending Pittsburgh Penguins to come rolling into Columbus for the first time since that first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

The Penguins, who won that series in five games on their way to hoisting the Cup for a second straight season, are looking for their fifth straight win after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 on Saturday at PPG Paints Arena. They've also gotten points in six straight games, have an 8-1-1 record in their past 10 and can take over the top spot in the Metropolitan Division with a win.

The Blue Jackets are in "backs against the wall" mode, with 63 points and sitting just outside the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. 

"Results are the most important thing when you're in our situation and with the games dwindling," Columbus coach John Tortorella said Saturday, a day after the Blue Jackets lost, 2-1, in overtime to the Philadelphia Flyers. "I do think we'll be ready to play. I do trust our team in the way they assess themselves, as far as what happened [Friday] night. So, we'll get ready to play. I want to get them out of the building here as quickly as possible [Saturday], because I want their energy in that game [Sunday]."

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Practice notes: Tortorella looking forward to Blue Jackets' response

Coach thinks pressure of playoff chase will reveal true character; Nutivaara 'banged up'

by By Brian Hedger JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

He'd rather the Blue Jackets have a playoff spot locked up already, but there's a part of coach John Tortorella that enjoys their current situation.

That's the coach part, which is filled with curiosity about what kind of people are wearing those Blue Jackets uniforms.

Columbus has lost its past two games, is sitting just outside the playoffs in the Eastern Conference and there are 24 games left in the regular season. The Blue Jackets will also host the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday at Nationwide Arena, a huge Metropolitan Division game.

"I trust the team, but I think a lot of guys on the team haven't been in a situation where there's expectations, and now there's a fight ahead of you here as far as getting in [to the playoffs]," he said Saturday, after a snappy practice at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. "Last year, we kind of cruise and play really good hockey, but we were given up for dead before the season even started. It's a lot easier playing in that type of situation."

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