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PREVIEW: Blue Jackets host St. Louis on Hockey Fights Cancer Night

Last year's Cup champs show how quickly momentum can change for team

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

BLUE JACKETS (6-8-4) vs. BLUES (12-3-4)    

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



The funny thing about sports is how funny it can be. 

Not necessarily humorous, but it can be that. It's more funny in that you never know what you'll get; one night, the breaks can be with you, the next they can be gone.  

And sometimes the good runs last forever, and the bad ones do too. Right now, the Blue Jackets appear to be in the latter with a 1-5-2 record over the last games, and the breaks aren't helping a ton, either. 

Take a look at the last few minutes of the shootout loss to Montreal on Tuesday night. Seth Jones had a chance to ice the game with an empty-net goal with around 50 seconds to go, but his 200-foot effort trickled just a couple inches wide of the cage for an icing. Moments later, the Canadiens tied the game after winning the offensive zone draw. 

Then in the shootout, after Elvis Merzlikins opened with a save, Cam Atkinson had a chance to give Columbus the lead. He appeared to have Carey Price beat, but in desperation, Price threw his body at the puck and appeared to discombobulate Atkinson, as the puck fell off his stick after his deke and hit the post instead of going in the net. 

It's two pucks that could have been in the net for the Blue Jackets, and instead the team took a quiet plane ride home after the 3-2 setback to the Canadiens. 

Video: Tortorella on the competitive fire in Korpi, Elvis

"That's how it is sometimes," defenseman Dean Kukan said. "Sometimes you don't have the bounces with you. We didn't have the bounces for a couple of games now. As soon as we have a game where we score goals, I think it's just going to come naturally. Right now, those two (chances for) Jonesy and Cam, they're so unlucky for us, but at the same time, if we keep playing, it's going to come to us." 

The Blue Jackets did get some puck luck in the first game of the recently completed three-game road trip at Arizona. A bouncing puck eluded the stick of Coyotes defenseman Kyle Capobianco and landed on the stick of Oliver Bjorkstrand, who quickly fired home the game-winning goal near the midway point of the third period. 

But in the next game Saturday in Colorado, there was another notable example of bad luck. With the Avs nursing a 3-2 lead late, Jones did a phenomenal job of getting a stick check on a shot by Nazem Kadri, but all the puck did deflect downward into the ice, then up over the shoulder of Joonas Korpisalo, who was left helpless on what would be the game-clinching goal. Afterward, both the goalie and Kukan said they'd never seen a shot take a similar path. 

HOCKEY FIGHTS CANCER: Jackets visit Nationwide Children's Hospital on Thursday

The good news is, though, that streaks are a part of the game, but they can also be turned around. No team knows that more than St. Louis, Friday night's foe on Hockey Fights Cancer Night that was last in the NHL in early January before getting red hot and riding the wave all the way to the Stanley Cup championship. Or how about the Washington Nationals, who were 19-31 through 50 games this past year before putting the pieces together and winning the World Series. 

Those are extreme examples that come along only every so often, but the point is they do occasionally come around. All a team can need is a spark and sometimes bad luck becomes good luck pretty quickly. 

The key, though, is for the team to keep working at it and see what happens.  

"We just gotta keep on playing," head coach John Tortorella said. "We just need to keep staying with it and keep working at our game." 

Know the Foe  

The game will complete the season series between the teams, as St. Louis took a 4-3 overtime win over the Blue Jackets on Nov. 1.  

Since that win, the Blues' third in a row, St. Louis has gone on a tear. The defending Stanley Cup champions extended the win streak to seven before a loss in the last game, a 3-2 shootout setback Tuesday vs. Arizona. Still, that extended the Blues' point streak to eight, and the team now is tied for the lead in the Western Conference with 28 points. 

The formula has been an excellent power play -- 26.2 percent, fourth in the NHL -- as well as a solid defense that makes it hard on opposing teams to score. St. Louis enters eighth in the league in goals against with 2.74 allowed, a number that's even better when Jordan Binnington is in. 

Last year's rookie sensation is off to a strong start this year again, currently boasting a 9-2-4 record, a 2.35 goals-against average and .921 save percentage while starting 15 of 19 games this year. Over his last nine starts, Binnington is 7-1-1, has a 1.96 GAA and a .931 save percentage. But with a home game Saturday night, the Blues could turn to Jake Allen (3-1-0, 3.29, .882) in Columbus.  

While Vladimir Tarasenko remains out up front, St. Louis will bring five players with at least 15 points to Columbus. Ryan O'Reilly leads the way with a 5-14-19 line, while David Perron - who had the OT winner vs. Columbus earlier this year - has eight goals and 10 assists. Brayden Schenn leads the team with 10 goals among his 17 points, while Alex Pietrangelo (6-11-17) and Jaden Schwartz (4-11-15) also have starred.  

3 Keys to the Game  

Win it close: Each team has played 12 games decided by a one-goal margin, tied for the most in the league. If Columbus is to win, it'll likely have to be a tight one.  

Keep a lead: The Blue Jackets started the season with six wins in six tries when scoring first. Then, the team has a regulation and overtime loss in the last two despite tallying first. It isn't a team that can afford to give up leads right now.  

Defense first: Columbus has given up at least two goals in every game this season. At some point, that streak has to end, especially as it takes a while for the offense to kick into gear. 

Of Note   

Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is suspended for the second of three games because of a hit laid on Colorado center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on Saturday. … Riley Nash is one assist away from 100 in his career, while Boone Jenner needs two helpers to reach that mark. … The teams split last year's contests, while the Blue Jackets got goals from Pierre-Luc Dubois, Sonny Milano and Oliver Bjorkstrand in the first meeting between the teams. Elvis Merzlikins made 23 saves.  

Projected Lineup    

(Subject to change)    

Gustav Nyquist - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand 

Alexandre Texier - Alexander Wennberg - Cam Atkinson 

Sonny Milano - Boone Jenner - Josh Anderson  

Eric Robinson - Riley Nash - Emil Bemstrom 

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard

Scott Harrington - Dean Kukan  

Joonas Korpisalo (confirmed starter)

Elvis Merzlikins 

Scratches: Markus Hannikainen, Nick Foligno (suspension), Ryan Murray (injury)

Roster Report: The Blue Jackets will see one change to the 18 skaters seen Tuesday in Montreal, as Harrington goes in for Murray (injury), while new callup Hannikainen -- recalled Thursday after the team discovered Kole Sherwood's torn oblique -- will be a healthy scratch. Korpisalo returns to the net. 





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