BLUE JACKETS (5-4-2) vs. OILERS (8-4-1)
Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., Nationwide Arena (FOX Sports Ohio, CBJ app, FOX Sports app, CD 102.5)
No one would argue the fact that the Blue Jackets' loss Saturday night in Philadelphia was an ugly one.
Columbus saw a 4-2 lead evaporate in what felt like the snap of a finger, as the Flyers scored five times in the last 10 minutes to take a 7-4 victory.
It wasn't so much the blown lead that irked head coach John Tortorella as the way the team played all night. He called it "smoke and mirrors" that the team had even been ahead through 50 minutes of play, but looking back, there's one thing the head coach won't do.
"You have to be really careful," he said. "You don't want to set off panic within your room here because of a stinker. Everybody has them in the league. We play 82 games, and there's going to be a number of bad games. You have to be really careful how you handle yourself.
"Maybe another time during the season we have to kick them here a little bit, (say) 'This just isn't right.' But I don't think that applies here. I think our guys have played really well, but we played a bad game against Philly right on through."
Video: Torts comments on team's maturity
The key is to limit the bad nights, and Tortorella didn't seem worried that his team will not show up for its next game tonight vs. Edmonton. In fact, there was no ranting and raving about the performance among the team, just a focus on getting better and moving past the loss.
"I think our guys are smart enough to know what we are and really what is our standard as far as our effort because that's something you can control," Tortorella said.
It's a nod to how much the Blue Jackets have grown over the years. A resolve seems to have been built in the room that the team knows how to bounce back when things go awry, much like they did against the Flyers.
"I think in the past we did a good job of responding and knowing when we've played badly," veteran defenseman David Savard said. "We all know we didn't get the job done in Philly. I don't think (Tortorella) needs to come in here and scream at us or do anything. We know we did a lot of bad things on the ice, and we just have to respond. I think we had two good days of practice and we're ready to go (against Edmonton)."
Another reason not to panic? Columbus had points in six consecutive games before the setback, a 4-0-2 record that righted the ship after a tough 1-3 start. On the whole, Tortorella has been pleased with the way the team has played and established its hard-checking, positionally sound identity.
After a hiccup in Philadelphia, the Blue Jackets just need to get it back quickly against the Oilers.
"We've forgotten the game in Philly," defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov said. "We can't play like that. Everybody in this room knows that, so we will adjust some things and get ready for the game (vs. the Oilers)."
Know The Foe
Edmonton finished 2018-19 with the second lowest point total in the Western Conference, but this year has started on a brighter note for the Oilers (though it is worth mentioning the team had the same 8-4-1 start a season ago, then lost six of its next seven).
So far, the Oilers are led by star power up front and a defense that's playing a much more responsible game than a season ago, even amid a 1-3-1 run that has followed a 7-1-0 start. While Edmonton gave up 3.31 goals per game last year, this year the team is ceding 2.69 per game, ninth in the NHL, under new head coach Dave Tippett.
The team's special teams have also been excellent, with Edmonton's power-play mark of 30.6 percent second in the NHL and its penalty kill percentage of 85.0 eighth in the league.
Of course, much of the team's game is based on the dominance of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, a two-time scoring leader and a 50-goal scorer, respectively. The two come to Columbus tied for third in the NHL with 22 points apiece, with Draisaitl tied for fourth in the league with teammate James Neal with 10 goals and McDavid tied for first with 16 assists. The Oilers also have been fueled by the resurgence of Neal, as the 12-year veteran has an NHL-best seven tallies on the power play.
Oscar Klembom leads the defensive contingent with nine points (1-8-9), while Darnell Nurse adds 2-6-8. In net, veteran Mike Smith has started seven games and is 3-3-1 with a 2.49 GAA and .914 save percentage, while Mikko Koskinen is at 5-1-0/2.39/.922. Smith will likely go vs. Columbus as Koskinen started last night during a 3-1 loss in Detroit.
3 Keys to the Game
Handle the top line: Easier said than done, right? Not only are McDavid and Draisaitl two of the top scorers in the game, they combined for 11 points in two games vs. Columbus last year. That was worst-case scenario; limiting them below that total has to be the goal. The key is to stop them before they get going and not let them build speed up the ice.
The new power play: Columbus has moved around some personnel on the power play. Seeing some early success for the new units would be a big confidence boost.
A renewed intensity: Bad games like the one in Philadelphia happen, but two in a row would be a concern. The Blue Jackets have to rebound when it comes to effort and 50-50 battles.
Hockey Halloween will be celebrated in Nationwide Arena. ... Oliver Bjorkstrand remains one point away from 100 in his career (46-53-99) while Riley Nash and Boone Jenner are two assists away from 100 in their careers. … 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). … Joonas Korpisalo is set to play in his 100th career game in net. ... Columbus has lost two in a row to Edmonton at home after having won the previous five matchups in Nationwide Arena. ... The game begins a stretch of six in a row against Western Conference foes for the Blue Jackets, who are 1-2 against the conference this year with a win vs. Dallas and losses to Anaheim and Chicago.
(Subject to change)
Nick Foligno - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Gustav Nyquist - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Sonny Milano - Boone Jenner - Josh Anderson
Jakob Lilja - Riley Nash - Emil Bemstrom
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Markus Nutivaara - David Savard
Vladislav Gavrikov - Dean Kukan
Joonas Korpisalo (confirmed starter)
Scratches: Scott Harrington
Roster Report: With winger Alexandre Texier (knee) and defenseman Ryan Murray (hand) going on injured reserve Monday, the Blue Jackets will likely see Jakob Lilja and Markus Nutivaara return to the lineup. Lilja has been scratched the past two games while Nutivaara has missed a pair of games with a lower-body injury.