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PREVIEW: Blue Jackets face Hurricanes for second time this year

Columbus puts five-game point streak on the line in Nationwide Arena

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

BLUE JACKETS (4-3-2) vs. HURRICANES (6-3-0)  

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


If you look at the big moments the Blue Jackets have had already in the season, there are a few that come to mind. 

Monday was one of them, as Columbus went into Toronto and overcame losing a 2-0 lead -- as well as a 3-2 third-period deficit -- on the way to a 4-3 overtime win against one of the most talented teams in the NHL.  

There was also Oct. 7, the third game of the season. Already 0-2 on the year, the Blue Jackets gave up a game-tying, extra-attacker goal late to Buffalo but still overcame what could have been heartbreak to earn the season's first win on an OT goal. 

But there might have been no better team performance than the one the team turned in Oct. 12 when it visited Metropolitan Division rival Carolina. The Blue Jackets were 1-3 at the time and facing a 5-0 Carolina team that was on fire. Pierre-Luc Dubois' third-period goal, on the heels of earlier tallies by Markus Nutivaara and Oliver Bjorkstrand, gave Columbus a 3-2 victory. 

With a rematch against the Hurricanes in the cards, the Blue Jackets will try to recapture that style of play against Carolina, though it isn't too different from the way Columbus has played all season.

"I think we just played the way that we've always talked about from the start of the season, and (it's) kind of how we played against Tampa (in the playoffs last season)," Cam Atkinson said. "No matter how good of a team they are -- Carolina is one of the top teams in the league, they were undefeated at the time -- we have to play not so much a boring game but a relentless, in-your-face, great sticks kind of game."

Looking back, that victory was the first of what is now five games in a row with a point for the Blue Jackets, who have gone from 1-3-0 to 4-3-2 and feeling good about the way the team has played on the whole this season. 

"I just like the way we've been above the puck," head coach John Tortorella said. "I think our neutral zone play, as far as creating turnovers and just not giving up odd-man rushes. As I stated at the beginning of the year, we need to play a little bit differently, or a different concentration within that certain part of the game, and I think our guys have given us that.  

"Wish our record was a little better right now, but I am encouraged at how we have played." 

The head coach said Wednesday that the team should feel good about itself for the way it came back to down Toronto on the road, and it should be a confident bunch that suits up against the Canes back home at Nationwide Arena.

In the meantime, the Blue Jackets continue to march ahead after preseason prognostications predicted their demise. Instead, as the coach hinted at Monday night in hockey's biggest city, the goal is to just keep going and getting better each and every day.

"We're supposed to suck this year," Tortorella said in a quote that made the fanbase take notice. "We're just going to worry about our own business and take it a day at a time." 

Know The Foe 

Since losing for the first time this year vs. Columbus, the Canes went out West for a three-game trip, where Carolina beat Los Angeles before back-to-back losses to San Jose and Anaheim. The last game of the trip was Friday, meaning the Hurricanes will have had six days between games when they arrive in Columbus.

Carolina continues to be led by an active defense and some burgeoning talents up front, plus a ton of speed and the ability to control possession. So far, the Canes are outshooting teams by an average of 5.2 shots on goal per game.  

When it comes to special teams, through Tuesday, Carolina is 17th in both power-play (19.4 percent) and penalty kill (78.4 percent) percentage. 

So far, the team is led in scoring by defenseman Dougie Hamilton and forward Erik Haula, who each scored in the first game vs. Columbus. Hamilton's 5-5-10 line leads all scorers, while Haula's seven goals top the team. 

A year ago, the team was led in scoring by Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, who combined for 51 goals and 159 points. This year, Teravainen has a 2-7-9 line to place second on the team in scoring, while Aho has two goals and an assist. Young Russian Andrei Svechnikov also has a 1-7-8 line while former Blue Jackets forward Ryan Dzingel has seven points. 

In net, Petr Mrazek and new acquisition James Reimer have each played in five games and have near matching goals-against averages (2.64 and 2.67, respectively). However, Mrazek's save percentage is .893 while Reimer checks in at .918. 

3 Keys to the Game 

Clear the zone: Columbus did a good job in its first game vs. Carolina getting to 50-50 pucks in the defensive zone and getting them out of harm's way. That proved to be a key way to handle the Hurricanes' speed and zone entries.

Limit the big guns: The trio of Aho, Teravainen and Svechnikov were all kept off the scoreboard in the first game between the two games. Handling the big guns is key against a team still building scoring depth. 

A quick start: The Canes haven't played since Friday, meaning there could be some rust for the visitors. If so, the Blue Jackets need to take advantage with goals.  

Of Note 

Nick Foligno is expected to play his 500th contest in a Blue Jackets sweater, while David Savard should do the same Saturday in Philadelphia. They will become the seventh and eighth players in franchise history to reach the milestone. ... Columbus will wear its third jerseys for the first of 12 times this season. … Oliver Bjorkstrand remains one point away from 100 in his career (46-53-99) while Riley Nash is two assists away from 100 in his career. … Savard, Seth Jones and Zach Werenski each have 40 career goals, one away from tying the CBJ's all-time record for goals among defensemen (Rostislav Klesla, 2001-11).  

Projected Lineup  

(Subject to change)  

Nick Foligno - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson  

Gustav Nyquist - Alexander Wennberg - Josh Anderson

Alexandre Texier - Boone Jenner - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Sonny Milano - Riley Nash - Emil Bemstrom

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones  

Scott Harrington - Ryan Murray

Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard  

Joonas Korpisalo (confirmed starter)

Elvis Merzlikins  

Scratches: Jakob Lilja, Dean Kukan, Markus Nutivaara (injured)

Roster Report: Lilja was scratched for the first time this year Monday in Toronto as Anderson returned from injured reserve, while Murray returned to the lineup against the Leafs after missing a game with an upper-body injury. Nutivaara missed practice Wednesday; Tortorella said he's "dinged up" but day-to-day. He will not play Thursday, with Scott Harrington going in.





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