BLUE JACKETS (9-9-4) vs. SENATORS (11-11-1)
Monday, 7 p.m. ET, Nationwide Arena (FOX Sports Ohio, CBJ app, FOX Sports app, CD 102.5 FM)
It's funny just how quickly a switch can flip when it comes to confidence for a team - or a certain unit.
Such is the story of the Blue Jackets' power play at the moment. After struggling for most of the season -- and showing it, as it appeared as though the weight of the world was sometimes on the shoulders of the team's attackers -- Columbus has suddenly found a hot streak going into Monday night's home game vs. Ottawa.
The team has power-play goals in six of the last seven games, including back-to-back games with multiple man-advantage goals. In the last four games, Columbus has scored on 7 of 15 power-play tries, and the team's overall mark for the season of 20.3 percent is up to 11th in the NHL.
New assistant coach Paul MacLean was hired last week to focus on special teams, in particular the man advantage unit, and his first message to the team wasn't as much about X's and O's as it was having the right mentality each time.
"Confidence is a big thing," he said. "The biggest thing we're trying to do is instill confidence in the group that they can do things and they can score and they can be effective in the game and not get frustrated. It's not always going to work. The other team is going to do a good job killing the penalties.
"The most important thing I wanted to get across in the first couple of days was, 'Go over the boards with a purpose and show your teammates that you want to make a difference.'"
Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who scored one of the team's three power-play goals in Saturday night's loss at Winnipeg, said that's exactly what Columbus has done of late.
"We're feeling comfortable, we're just moving the puck, we're getting on the ice thinking we're going to score," he said. "Just moving it, shooting it. There are a couple of assignments that we changed a bit, and I think we're doing a really good job with that."
Two of the goals scored in the game vs. Colorado were on rebounds, showing a team that had an emphasis of getting the puck to the net, while a third was simply jammed home on an elite slap shot by Seth Jones on a one-timer in a 5-on-3 situation.
In a lot of ways, that's what the power play is all about -- letting top players be top players, moving the puck to get the goalie going from side to side, and then getting to the front of the net to finish.
"It's moving the puck well, playing downhill, getting some shots and looking to get some rebounds," head coach John Tortorella said of the power play after the Winnipeg game. "It was a big part of us being involved in the game tonight.
"We had some guys that made some plays. We got some pucks through, and we got another 5-on-3, score a 5-on-3 goal. So hopefully we keep on gaining confidence."
Know the Foe
Ottawa comes to Nationwide Arena as an improved outfit from a year ago but still one that is not expected to be in playoff contention. The Sens are 11-11-1 but that is still good for only a tie for sixth in the eight-team Atlantic Division. Ottawa is hot, though, having won three in a row and five of six.
New head coach D.J. Smith's squad averages 2.83 goals per game and gives up 3.04, but things would be better were it not for an anemic power play that is cashing in at just 10.0 percent, worst in the NHL.
Red-hot Jean-Gabriel Pageau leads the way with 13 goals, tied for eighth in the NHL, along with six assists for 19 points to go with a plus-17 rating. Former Blue Jacket Anthony Duclair is just behind with a 10-5-15 line, while 20-year-old Brady Tkachuk has eight goals and 14 points. Thomas Chabot continues to lead from the blue line as well with a 2-12-14 line. Offseason additions Connor Brown (2-12-14), Vladislav Namestnikov (6-6-12) and Tyler Ennis (6-5-11) have added depth.
In net, Anders Nilsson has been strong with a 7-4-1 mark, 2.63 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage that is tied for fifth in the NHL. He's alternated with veteran Craig Anderson, who is 4-7-0 with a 3.11 GAA and .901 save percentage.
Former Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov (two goals in seven games) is out with a groin injury and is joined on the injured list by Erik Brannstrom and Scott Sabourin.
3 Keys to the Game
Pedal to the metal: The Sens aren't a pushover like a season ago, and in the midst of a difficult, busy stretch, the Blue Jackets have to be on their game from the start in this one.
Keep building: By and large, Columbus played a good game in Winnipeg, controlling the puck for large portions of the game. You can tell the team is more confident with the puck on its sticks, which has to continue building.
Protect Nationwide: The Blue Jackets have won three in a row at home. The improved play at Nationwide will be a key going forward after a start in which the team was hit or miss at home.
In addition to Duclair and Anisimov, the Senators have played former Blue Jackets Ron Hainsey, Cody Goloubef, Jonathan Davidsson and Vitali Abramov this season. … Zach Werenski extended his point streak to six games (3-5-8) on Saturday, while Pierre-Luc Dubois ran his point streak to four games (4-2-6). … Oliver Bjorkstrand has 1-5-6 in a three-game point streak. … Joonas Korpisalo has a .913 save percentage in his last seven starts. ... Columbus has played in 15 one-goal games, most in the NHL. … The Blue Jackets swept last year's three-game season series vs. Ottawa, winning by a combined score of 15-5. ... Dubois led the team with a 4-3-7 line in those games while Cam Atkinson and Bjorkstrand each put up 2-2-4 lines.
(Subject to change)
Sonny Milano - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Emil Bemstrom
Nick Foligno - Alexandre Texier - Cam Atkinson
Eric Robinson - Alexander Wennberg - Josh Anderson
Gustav Nyquist - Boone Jenner - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Ryan Murray - David Savard
Vladislav Gavrikov - Dean Kukan
Joonas Korpisalo (confirmed starter)
Scratches: Riley Nash, Scott Harrington
Roster Report: The Blue Jackets will make no changes to the lineup other than returning Korpisalo to the net, Tortorella said Monday.