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PREVIEW: Blue Jackets complete road trip in Montreal

Columbus hopes sticking together will lead to better results

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

BLUE JACKETS (6-8-3) at CANADIENS (9-5-3)    

Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET, Centre Bell, Montreal (FOX Sports OhioCBJ appFOX Sports app97.1 The Fan)    

If the Blue Jackets are going to put a stretch of just one win in seven games behind them, there's only one way it's going to happen. 

It's going to be by sticking together, head coach John Tortorella said.  

"Through a tough start right now, I think it's important that instead of leaning into people, I think we need to do it together," he said. "I think we have to try to get out of this together, so that's how we're going to go about our business." 

If there's one thing that has been mystifying through the struggles, it's the way the team's confidence - and with it execution, especially on the offensive end - have seemingly fallen apart. 

Tortorella says it happens in the game and he expects the team to turn it around at some point soon, but that doesn't make it any easier to go through. 

Everyone knew about the team's free agent losses this summer -- and it's certainly something that gets brought up each time the Blue Jackets arrive in a hockey-mad city like Toronto or Montreal, where the team will play Tuesday night -- but as the streak has piled up, the head coach sees players perhaps putting too much pressure on themselves to come through.  

It's led to such names as Seth Jones, Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson and Josh Anderson to be struggling to produce as they had in years past. 

"I think (the summer) makes us all have to be a little bit better," Jones said. "Speaking for myself here, I don't think I've played my best hockey this year. I put a lot of weight on my shoulders all the time. I'm my biggest critic, and I think leadership starts with setting an example. I want to be a consistent factor for this team every game." 

Of course, you want a player to accept the weight that Jones has talked about, but in some ways it has been crushing this year as the Blue Jackets have gone through their most recent stretch. 

After a 5-3-2 start -- including stretches of 5-1-2 and 4-0-2 -- the last seven games have seen the Blue Jackets "lose themselves," in Tortorella's words. The thing about being lost, though, is that things are only lost until they are found. 

And the way Tortorella sees the Blue Jackets finding themselves is to stick together.  

"We've played some really good hockey that first 10 games or so," Tortorella said. "Teams go through it, through struggles. It's early in the year for us. It's a good test for us as far as how we get out of this. I don't think we can lean on one guy. I think it has to be together, and that's what we've tried to do here is try to stay together and try to help one another to see if we get some consistency and some traction into our season." 

Know the Foe  

The Canadiens have started strong, currently occupying third place in the Atlantic Division with a 9-5-3 mark. The offense is the main reason, as the Habs have scored 3.53 goals per game, tied for fifth in the league. 

Claude Julien's squad has scored by committee, as well, as eight Canadiens have at least 10 points and six have at least five goals, while 17 different players have tallied. 

The leader is Jonathan Drouin, as the 24-year-old from Quebec is tied for the team lead with seven goals and paces the way with 15 points. Just behind is Tomas Tatar, as the free agent acquisition continues to have been a shrewd addition with a 5-9-14 line. At age 34, defenseman Shea Weber is averaging a career high in points per game with five goals and 13 points thus far. Brendan Gallagher (7-6-13), Max Domi (4-8-12), Jeff Petry (2-8-10), Phillip Danault (5-5-10) and Joel Armia (6-4-10) also have reached double digits in points. 

If there's a weakness, it's that Montreal is giving up more than three goals per game, and the penalty kill is at just 72.2 percent, third from bottom in the league. Carey Price is 8-4-2 with a 2.71 goals-against and .914 save percentage while starting 14 of 17 games; backup Keith Kinkaid, a former Blue Jacket, has given up 13 goals in three starts.  

Montreal will be without young standout Jesperi Kotkaniemi, a 19-year-old Finnish forward who had 24 points last year as a rookie. 

3 Keys to the Game  

Keep the power: Columbus has scored power-play goals in four of the last six games, including two in a row. With Montreal's struggles on the kill, the opportunity could be there to take advantage. 

Elvis enters the building: With Elvis Merzlikins getting the nod in net, what better time for him - coming off a solid showing in Cleveland over the weekend - to earn his first career win? 

Patience: It's been an issue at times with the Blue Jackets losing patience and giving up odd-man rushes in untimely situations. Columbus must stick to its game for 60 minutes. 

Of Note

Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is suspended for the game 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. … Columbus has points in five straight regular-season games vs. the Atlantic Division and is 7-3-1 in its last 10 vs. Montreal. … The Canadiens won two of three vs. Columbus last year, but the Jackets took a 6-2 win on March 28 that helped clinch a playoff spot over the Habs. … Oliver Bjorkstrand scored three goals vs. Montreal a season ago. 

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  

Elvis Merzlikins (confirmed starter)  

Joonas Korpisalo  

Scratches: Kole Sherwood, Nick Foligno (suspension), Ryan Murray

Roster Report: With Foligno out, Robinson enters the lineup after being recalled Sunday, while Nash also will go in for Sherwood. Tortorella also said Monday that Merzlikins will start in place of Korpisalo after the latter's frustration reaction to giving up a goal late in the game vs. the Avs. Murray also was activated from injured reserve Tuesday but it is unknown if he will enter the lineup. 





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