BLUE JACKETS (17-26-12) vs. RED WINGS (19-27-9)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, Nationwide Arena
5th Line Appreciation Night
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, CBJ app
Radio: Eldorado Scioto Downs Blue Jackets radio network (97.1 The Fan flagship)
While the Blue Jackets and Red Wings are battling for draft position and lottery odds instead of a playoff spot -- with last night's win, Detroit moved one point ahead of Columbus at the bottom of the Central Division -- CBJ head coach John Tortorella has too much respect for the game to put that battle ahead of the one the teams will have on the ice to finish the season tonight.
In other words, there will be no tanking from the Jackets as they lace 'em up for the final time against the Wings.
"Oh God, I don't know how to spell (tank) and I don't think our athletes know how to spell it," Tortorella said earlier this week.
There's ample evidence that's the case, including a pair of comebacks earlier this week against Nashville to grab three points against a team that was trying to clinch a postseason berth of its own.
In particular, Tortorella was happy with how his team responded to a 3-0 hole after two periods Monday, battling back to score three in the third (all off the stick of Emil Bemstrom) to come back and force overtime.
"I brought it up between periods the other night," Tortorella said. "It's 3-0 (in a) nothing game. Do you give? And that's what I asked the athletes, you cannot give in here. We need to have dignity as we play here, the rest of these games, and this is a really important time for us in that third period. I am really proud that they played hard and Bemmer lit it up a little bit and scored some goals for us, and at least we found a way to get a point."
While there are some fans who would likely want to see the team lose - it's only natural with draft position on the line, with Columbus currently fourth from bottom in the league in points - but there are many others who want to see the team finish strong and enjoy a winning night in Nationwide Arena.
Those are the fans a player like Seth Jones is playing for as Columbus finishes the string tonight with points in five of the last six games.
"These last two games at home, we want to get a couple of wins in front of our fans, show our appreciation for their support all season," Jones said Friday morning. "There's no quit in our team, and we're going to fight until the last game. I think looking back on this little point streak we had, it's been nice that it's been at home in front of our fans and we've given them something to cheer about.
"It's been a rough season for everyone, but that's something they deserve and that's something we're trying to deliver for them."
Know the Foe
This will be battle for divisional position, as the teams enter the game battling for the last two spots in the Central. Columbus has 46 points, one spot behind Detroit with 47 points. Either way, Detroit will miss the postseason for the fifth consecutive year, and the team could finish last in its division for the second straight year with a loss.
Both teams are banged up entering the contest, with the Red Wings without standout forwards Dylan Larkin and Todd Bertuzzi as well as dependable forwards Robby Fabbri and Bobby Ryan.
Larkin is tied the team leader among forwards with 23 points (9-14) in 44 games, while Fabbri had a 10-8-18 line in 30 contests and Bertuzzi had five goals and seven points in nine games before his season came to an early close. Ryan also chipped in 7-7-14 in 33 games, including three goals vs. Columbus.
Without that offensive thrust, Detroit is led by defenseman Filip Hronek, whose 2-23-25 line gives him the most points on the squad but the lowest total for a team leader in points in the NHL. With Anthony Mantha (11-10-21) traded to Washington, Adam Erne is the team's only double-digit goal scorer on the year, but the forward with an 11-9-20 line did not play Friday night. Since joining the team in the Mantha deal, Jakub Vrana has been red-hot, posting seven goals and nine points in 10 games.
In net, Thomas Greiss leads the team with 34 games and 29 starts, going 8-15-8 with a 2.70 GAA and .912 save percentage. He has allowed just two goals in his last three starts and is boasting a 6-0-3 record in his last 10 appearances. Jonathan Bernier has added 24 games (23 starts) and is 9-11-1 with a 2.99/.914 mark.
3 Keys to the Game
Finish strong: There's just one game left. No reason not to empty the tank before a long offseason without games.
Manage the game: Penalties and turnovers killed the Jackets on Friday night, a common theme throughout the year. Columbus has to do a better job of handling the momentum swings in a game.
Get Kivi a W: Tortorella said the young goalie will go back in net, so the Jackets might as well get him a victory.
Oliver Bjorkstrand leads the Jackets in all three major statistical categories this year with a 17-25-42 line plus three shootout goals in four chances. ... Cam Atkinson notched his 400th career point in the game Wednesday, while Jack Roslovic scored his 100th. … With a hat trick Monday, Bemstrom has three goals in the last three games ... Vladislav Gavrikov has three assists in the last two contests. … Both Nathan Gerbe and Gavin Bayreuther scored their first goals of the season Friday night. … Tortorella has 672 career wins, tied with Mike Keenan for 12th place in NHL history. … CBJ have scored the first goal of the game on 32 occasions in 55 games. … Columbus is 3-3-1 this year vs. the Red Wings, including a 2-1-0 mark in Nationwide Arena. … The Blue Jackets have 42 wins all-time vs. Detroit, the most against any foe.
Projected Lineup presented by Blue Technologies
(Subject to change)
Oliver Bjorkstrand - Max Domi - Cam Atkinson
Mikhail Grigorenko - Jack Roslovic - Emil Bemstrom
Stefan Matteau - Liam Foudy - Patrik Laine
Nathan Gerbe - Ryan MacInnis - Eric Robinson
Michael Del Zotto - Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov - Andrew Peeke
Scott Harrington - Gabriel Carlsson
Scratches: Yegor Chinakhov, Kole Sherwood, Kevin Stenlund, Dean Kukan, Mikko Lehtonen
Taxi squad: Adam Clendening, Daniil Tarasov, Cam Johnson
Injured: Alexandre Texier (lower body injury, day-to-day), Zac Dalpe (lower-body injury, out for the season), Gus Nyquist (shoulder, out for the season), Zach Werenski (sports hernia, out for the season), Boone Jenner (broken finger, out for the season), Joonas Korpisalo (lower-body injury, out for the season), Brandon Dubinsky (wrist, LTIR).
Roster report: The Jackets are making two changes, with Matteau going in for Stenlund and Carlsson playing in place of Gavin Bayreuther, who was sent to AHL Cleveland after Friday's game.