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PREVIEW: Blue Jackets begin West Coast swing in Los Angeles

Columbus will try to get back in the win column against the Kings

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /
BLUE JACKETS (19-15-8) at KINGS (17-22-4)

Monday, 10:30 p.m. ET, Staples Center, Los Angeles (FOX Sports OhioCBJ appFOX Sports app97.1 The Fan)    

The Blue Jackets 12-game point streak is over, which must come as a disappointment to team members. 

Or does it? 

To hear Columbus head coach John Tortorella tell it, the team wasn't exactly paying attention as it tied for the third longest point streak in team history. 

Certainly the Blue Jackets knew they were playing well, but the key to keeping it going was to focus on the next game, not the big picture. And now that the streak is over after Saturday's 3-2 loss to San Jose, nothing changes in that regard. 

"We haven't really, we don't talk about the streak," Tortorella said after the game. "We are just trying to play the right way. All we do is get ready for our next game. It's not about taking (things) away and talking about the end of a streak. We don't go about it that way. We're just trying to play the right way. We have to get back at it and we go out west and play the way we feel that we can win hockey games." 

After the team practiced in Los Angeles on Sunday, Tortorella did say he's interested to see how his team would respond, though, to the loss against the Sharks. While things seemed to always bounce the Blue Jackets' way during the point streak, Saturday's game was a little different as Columbus seemed just a bit off of its game.  

It wasn't a terrible performance but not a tremendously sharp one, and the Blue Jackets will look to put together a better showing against the Kings on Monday night and continue to build on the momentum in the locker room. 

"We're fortunate we've strung together those wins and that helps that belief even more," the head coach said. "A true test now is we lost a game. I don't think we played all that well. I don't think either team really played that well, but we lose the game. Now, can you come back with your confidence and your swagger and play the way you're supposed to play? These are the things we're going to find out." 

In the room, that belief is now manifesting itself to the Blue Jackets believe a fourth straight postseason berth is on the table despite the early-season struggles when it comes to winning games. With 20 of a possible 24 points during the 12-game streak, Columbus has put itself back in the playoff race and confirmed to itself that the team is as strong as players had thought going into the season. 

"We just try to win every game," Werenski said. "We try to play the same way every night. Points were coming for us. We play well as a team. I think we proved to ourselves we're a playoff hockey team in here, and if we play that way, we're going to win a lot of games." 

Monday night's game against the Kings starts a stretch of four games in six days out West, with games against Anaheim, San Jose and Las Vegas to follow.  

"It's a West Coast trip," Werenski said. "It should be a lot of fun. It's time to start another streak." 

Know the Foe  

If there's any team that knows how the Blue Jackets felt at the start of the season, it might be the Los Angeles Kings. 

The team is 17-22-4 and sitting seventh in the Pacific Division with 38 points. So far at 5-on-5, the team has been outscored 86-71, but when it comes to measuring shot quality via expected goals, the team at that status should have an 86.75-74.9 edge according to Natural Stat Trick. The Kings are second in the NHL in expected goals at 5-on-5 but second from last at that state in actual goals scored. 

In other words, players haven't finished as well as one would expect - a fate similar to what the Blue Jackets faced in the first 30 games - while it's also fair to say the goaltending hasn't gotten the job done. 

Up front, the seemingly ageless Anze Kopitar leads the way, with the Slovenian center tops on the team in all three major stats with 15 goals, 22 assists and 37 points. Drew Doughty is next with a 6-20-26 line, while Tyler Toffoli has 11 goals and 24 points and Alex Iafallo with an 8-15-23 line. Jeff Carter continues to be able to put the puck in the net with 12 goals among his 20 points.  

Two areas have really combined to hurt the Kings, and that's goaltending and special teams. The squad save percentage of .890 is 28th in the NHL, with Jonathan Quick and Jack Campbell both strongly in the negative at goals saved above average. Quick is 11-15-2 with a 3.05 goals-against average and .894 save percentage while Campbell is 6-7-2/2.92/.894. 

In addition, the team's power play checks in 27th in the NHL in power play (14.9 percent) and 28th in penalty kill (74.6 percent). 

3 Keys to the Game   

Pucks on net: Given the struggles of the Kings' goaltenders, Columbus has to get pucks into the blue either to challenge the Kings or to find rebounds. 

A power-play goal: Columbus struggled to create offense against the Kings the first time around, and the Blue Jackets spent a good part of Sunday's practice working on the man advantage. It takes on added importance given the Kings' struggles scoring. 

Start a new point streak: The Blue Jackets have to keep playing the same way as they did during the recent hot run and not let a loss turn into a losing skid. 

Of Note  

Elvis Merzlikins has stopped 86 of 91 shots (.945 save percentage) in the past three games. … Werenski has 10-9-19 in his last 19 games as well as seven goals in nine games since returning from injury. … Alexander Wennberg is expected to play game No. 400 in his CBJ/NHL career while Tortorella will coach his 1,300th game. … Columbus is in the midst of five straight games vs. Western Conference teams. … Columbus is 4-0-3 in its last seven road games. … The Blue Jackets are 6-0-0 on Monday this season.  

Projected Lineup  

(Subject to change)   

Gustav Nyquist - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Emil Bemstrom 

Nathan Gerbe - Boone Jenner - Nick Foligno 

Sonny Milano - Alexander Wennberg - Kevin Stenlund 

Jakob Lilja - Riley Nash - Eric Robinson 

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones   

Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard    

Scott Harrington - Markus Nutivaara 

Elvis Merzlikins  

Matiss Kivlenieks  

Scratches: Ryan MacInnis, Gabriel Carlsson, Joonas Korpisalo (injury)  

Roster Report: Nutivaara was activated from injured reserve Sunday and could rejoin the lineup as well as Bemstrom. Cam Atkinson said he's 50-50 to play while continuing to rehab a high ankle sprain suffered against the Kings the last time. 





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