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PREVIEW: Blue Jackets face Montreal for second time in a week

Homestand in Nationwide Arena continues Tuesday night vs. Canadiens

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

BLUE JACKETS (7-8-4) vs. CANADIENS (11-5-4)    

Tuesday, 7 p.m., Nationwide Arena (FOX Sports OhioCBJ appFOX Sports app97.1 The Fan)    


When John Tortorella walked into the Blue Jackets' locker room for the second intermission of Friday night's game, he knew he had to do something. 

With little to lose after his team sleepwalked to a 2-1 deficit through 40 minutes of play vs. visiting St. Louis, Tortorella needed to make a decision on how to spark his team. 

So he channeled a notable figure in pop culture. A man whose wisdom has guided many since his character achieved the heights of its popularity in the 1990s. 

Tortorella pulled a Costanza when it came to his forward lines. 

"I went the other way, where I didn't think that I'd be playing this guy with that guy. Well, I'm going to play him with that guy tonight," Tortorella said. 

So he did the opposite? 

"Basically the opposite, yeah," he head coach admitted. "It may sound a little silly, but that's basically what I was doing. Did I think I was going to be playing (Pierre-Luc Dubois, Sonny Milano and Emil Bemstrom) together? No, I didn't think I'd be doing that. 

"Isn't there a Seinfeld episode, going the opposite? Yeah, that's what I did." 

And just like how doing the opposite of his instinct allowed George Costanza to date a beautiful woman and get a job with the New York Yankees, Tortorella found success with his strategy. Less than three minutes into the third, Dubois scored to tie the game with assists to Milano and Bemstrom. The Blue Jackets played a solid period and then finished out the win with an overtime goal off the stick of Zach Werenski. 

So, will Tortorella continue with his new lines? Much like Elaine Benes implored George to "stick with the opposite," the head coach appears set to do so Tuesday against Montreal. 

"I'll probably stick with them," Tortorella said Saturday, two days before the Blue Jackets used the same units in Monday's practice. "Nick (Foligno) is still out, so things will change when he comes back in, but I'll probably stick with them." 

One reason why Tortorella might stick with the trios -- which can be found below -- is that he hasn't had any real strong reason to run with the lines he's been using. With a number of the Blue Jackets' top players struggling to score goals and the team placed 30th in the league in goals per game, it's not like there's anything to be lost by giving the lines that gave such energy on Friday another whirl. 

"We did find a line and it's a good one -- it's Luc, (Oliver Bjorkstrand and Gustav Nyquist)," Tortorella said of previous games. "It's been a really good line for us, but we're still not winning and we're still not scoring goals.  

"... We're just so tentative, so it's hard to really judge what your lines can look like when there's so many people that are tentative because it's not who they are as players. Until we get it, then I think we'll get a much better feel of what we think the lines should be." 

From a player perspective, Dubois said that line chemistry can be a thing, but he also said that sometimes the freshness of a new trio can provide a jolt. Ultimately, at the end of the day, coming up with a few lines that can be depended on is the goal, but in the meantime the Blue Jackets are still trying to find exactly what works.  

"I think some guys, their games mesh well together, some guys don't," Dubois said. "But I think if you put smart players together and have them play together, they'll figure it out pretty fast." 

Know the Foe  

While Montreal comes in tied for sixth in the NHL with 26 points, it's not all bien in La belle province at the moment. 

That's because of a run of injuries that will keep two lineup regulars out for the Habs on Tuesday night in Nationwide Arena.  

The team announced Monday that one of the team's top scorers, Jonathan Drouin, is out with a wrist injury, while depth forward Paul Byron has injured his knee and will not play vs. Columbus either. 

The good news for the Canadiens is that young Finnish standout Jesperi Kotkaniemi came back recently from injury, and there's still some solid scoring depth on a squad that is sixth in the NHL with 3.50 goals per game. At 5-on-5, Montreal has been one of the best in the league at generating with 50 tallies, second in the NHL behind only Washington, which has played three more games. 

Tomas Tatar leads eight players in double figures in scoring with a 7-13-20 line including two goals and seven points in his last four games. Shea Weber adds 6-11-17 from the blue line, while Brendan Gallagher has a team-best nine goals among 16 points. Phillip Danault (6-9-15) and Max Domi (4-9-13) are also key pieces of the attack.  

If there's a weakness, it's that Montreal is giving up 3.05 per game, and the penalty kill is at just 71.9 percent, second from bottom in the league. Carey Price is 10-4-2 with a 2.61 goals-against and .917 save percentage while starting 16 of 20 games; backup Keith Kinkaid, a former Blue Jacket, has given up 17 goals in four starts.  

3 Keys to the Game  

Keep the kill going: Columbus has stopped 17 of 19 power-play chances (89.5 percent) in the last eight home games, while Montreal doesn't have a power-play goal in five straight games vs. the Blue Jackets.  

Defensive pressure: The Blue Jackets played one of their best defensive games of the year a week ago vs. Montreal, when the Habs took a 3-2 win in a shootout. That kind of attention to detail must continue against one of the league's top-scoring teams.  

Confidence continued: Can a huge overtime win in the last game help the Blue Jackets lift what Tortorella has termed a "cloud" over the team brought on by a lack of goal scoring? Now is as good a time as any to get going offensively.  

Of Note   

Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is suspended for the third of three games because of a hit laid on Colorado center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on Nov. 9. ... The Blue Jackets will wear third jerseys. … Riley Nash is one assist away from 100 in his career, while Boone Jenner needs two helpers to reach that mark. … Eric Robinson and Zach Werenski scored in the previous game vs. Montreal one week ago. … Cam Atkinson has an assist in four straight games, tying a personal best. … Emil Bemstrom (2-2-4) is in the midst of a four-game point streak. …Columbus is 7-3-2 in its last 12 vs. Montreal, but the Canadiens have won three of four over the past two seasons. ... Oliver Bjorkstrand scored three goals vs. Montreal a season ago. … Columbus has played in 13 one-goal games, tied for the most in the NHL. ... The game is the second in a stretch that includes six home games in seven contests. 

Projected Lineup    

(Subject to change)    

Sonny Milano - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Emil Bemstrom 

Gustav Nyquist - Boone Jenner - Oliver Bjorkstrand 

Alexandre Texier - RIley Nash - Cam Atkinson 

Eric Robinson - Alexander Wennberg - Josh Anderson 

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones    

Ryan Murray - David Savard  

Vladislav Gavrikov - Dean Kukan  

Joonas Korpisalo (confirmed starter)

Elvis Merzlikins 

Scratches: Markus Hannikainen, Nick Foligno (suspension), Scott Harrington 

Roster Report: Murray enters the lineup tonight after missing Friday's game, while Harrington is out. Korpisalo will start his second game in a row. 





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