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CBJ Today: We've been here before

The Blue Jackets have made a habit of getting hot at the right time

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Each weekday this season, BlueJackets.com will post CBJ Today, a look at news, notes, analysis and fun stuff from around the Blue Jackets world. It's everything you need to know if you're a fan going into the day. 

The Daily Buzz 

If you like Blue Jackets hockey -- and I assume you do if you're reading this -- you're in the right place. Columbus plays four games in the next six days starting tonight with Chicago's first visit to Nationwide Arena of the season. The teams then play Thursday at the downtown barn before Saturday and Sunday games in Nashville. Considering these are teams near or below the Jackets in the standings, you can argue this is a pretty big week. 

Bouncing Back 

The Blue Jackets enter tonight's game vs. the Blackhawks in fifth place in the Central Division with 20 points in 19 games. But considering how some of the teams in the division have played many fewer games, it's more instructive to look at points percentage right now, where Columbus ranks sixth at .526, behind Florida (.765), Carolina (.735), Tampa Bay (.719), Chicago (.579) and Dallas (.538). 

That's a bit instructive. So far, that's not good enough to make the playoffs, as only the top four teams in the division will advance. But it's also not the world's biggest gap to make up, either, to get to the No. 4 spot. 

I don't think anyone would argue the Blue Jackets are fighting to find their game with some consistency. But it's also fair to say they've stayed afloat thus far, giving themselves the chance to be right back on the right side of the line with a couple of wins. 

And it's not like the Blue Jackets haven't been here before. Just a year ago, Columbus was 11-14-4 through 29 games, a points percentage of .448. From there, a ragtag group besieged by injuries went on a 19-2-5 run to jump back into playoff position before the pandemic hit.  

In fact, getting hot as the season goes on has become a bit of a Blue Jackets thing over the years. The 2018-19 team took a while to get there but won seven of its last eight to make the playoffs. The year before that, Columbus went 13-2-2 down the stretch to clinch a playoff berth. 

That's not all. The 2013 team was 5-12-4 through 21 games then finished 19-5-3 to get within a tiebreaker of the postseason in that 48-game campaign. That's a bit of an instructive one, as that team was in a lot worse position in a shorter season and still nearly made the postseason. 

I'm not guaranteeing a hot streak is right around the corner, of course. No one can predict the future, and the Jackets will have to play better than they are right now to reach their goal of a fifth straight postseason appearance.  

But it does go to show you that for as much as Columbus has fought its game so far -- and for all of the frustration and hang-wringing I've seen on social media -- there's still plenty to play for.  

And the Blue Jackets know it. 

"We know there's a lot more out of this group, and that's why it's been a little but frustrating I guess," captain Nick Foligno said. "But we have to rectify things the right way. There's baby steps. It's not like you just flip a switch and all of a sudden you're playing great hockey. It's a process. We have to understand it and respect it." 

Big Night for Cleveland 

The top farm team of the Blue Jackets, the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL, got off to a bit of a tough start with an 0-2-1 record in their first three games. 

Game No. 4, however, was a bit cathartic last night as Cleveland romped its way to a 7-3 victory at Rockford on Monday night.  

There were a bunch of notable accomplishments, including a standout pro debut for Carson Meyer. The Powell native, AAA Blue Jackets and Ohio State product had a memorable start to his AHL career, notching two goals in his first-ever pro game. 

Tweet from @monstershockey: He'll be keeping that puck. Carson Meyer's first pro goal made it 3-0 in the first! pic.twitter.com/nCghydocyo

 Another fellow Buckeye, Zac Dalpe, also scored twice, with those goals coming against a former OSU goalie in Matt Tomkins. Meanwhile, another local product -- AAA Jackets alum, Bowling Green product and Westerville native Connor McDonald -- also made his debut on defense for the Monsters and played his first AHL game. 

Big nights were also had by Trey Fix-Wolanksy (1-2-3), Justin Scott (1-1-2) and Nathan Gerbe (1-1-2) while Brad Thiessen earned his first win of the year with 29 saves in net.  

The teams meet again tonight. Congrats to the local boys on their accomplishments! 

And Overseas... 

The Monsters weren't the only ones to have a fun day on the ice. In addition, 2018 second-round pick Kirill Marchenko had a breakout game for his SKA St. Petersburg team in the KHL, notching two goals -- including the game winner with 16 seconds to play -- in a 4-3 win over Kunlun Red Star. 

Tweet from @RUSProspects: Kirill Marchenko scores a GWG with just 16 seconds remaining, finishes the game with 2G+1A. #CBJ pic.twitter.com/0dKTSggRhr

Marchenko, one of the Jackets' top prospects, had not scored in KHL play since Dec. 22, a stretch in which he missed a month of action with injury. Still, he had been back since Jan. 27 and had gone eight straight games without getting on the board. 

With the pair of goals in the comeback victory, Marchenko now has a 14-11-25 line this season with the Russian power, with whom he is generally a first-line player. Marchenko also has scored in all four games he's played against Kunlun Red Star in his career. 

"Yes, I've also noticed that I'm managing to hit the target in matches against this team," he told the team's English language site. "We will continue working, I want to score against all opponents!" 

We agree, Kirill.  

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