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Preview: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs

Jackets face Toronto for the first time this season on Wednesday

by Alison Lukan @AlisonL / http://www.bluejackets.com

GAME 56: BLUE JACKETS VS. MAPLE LEAFS

NATIONWIDE ARENA, 7 P.M.

TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO / FOX SPORTS GO

RADIO: 97.1 & BLUEJACKETS.COM

Columbus (35-15-5) enters game four of a seven-game home stand Wednesday as Toronto comes to Nationwide on the second half of a back-to-back.

The young Jackets face an equally young Leafs squad that includes rookie Auston Matthews (25-19-44), who is eighth in the league and first among all rookies in goals. He's also first among all rookies in points. Add in teammates Mitch Marner (15-32-47), William Nylander (14-22-36) and Nikita Zaitsev (2-23-25) and Toronto's lineup boasts four of the top ten scoring rookies in the league.

Here are five things to watch for in the game:

  1. New look power play.
    The Jackets power play has struggled of late. The team hasn't had a power play goal since Jan. 22 against Ottawa. One new wrinkle John Tortorella is adding to the special teams is putting rookie defenseman Markus Nutivaara on the second power play unit. Tortorella likes the young Finn's "sneaky shot" and puck skills, and is also curious to see if the added offensive opportunities carry over to 5-on-5 play. The defenseman has seen power play time against the Canucks and the Rangers thus far.
  2. The other net. 
    Leafs G Frederik Andersen made his third consecutive start Tuesday against the Islanders. That means former Blue Jacket Curtis McElhinney backstops Toronto tonight. McElhinney is 2-2-0 since joining the Leafs with a .935 save percentage.
  3. Dubinsky & co. leading the way.
    All year the Jackets have demonstrated their depth as different players and different lines have stepped up to win games. Since the All-Star break, the line of Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, and All-Star Cam Atkinson has answered the bell, producing eight assists and seven goals, including at least one score in four of the last six games.  
  4. The right kind of shots.
    The Jackets have outshot their last five opponents but are 2-3-0 in those games. When asked if the shots are coming from the right places, Tortorella said on Tuesday that the team is getting better as far as shot volume and getting bodies to the net, but he'd like to see more bad angle shots, more pucks in the crease, and more bodies down low to play rebounds.
  5. Lineup changes. 
    Scott Hartnell went hard into the end boards Monday and did not play the final two periods against the Rangers. He also did not participate in Tuesday's practice. Emergency call-up Oliver Bjorkstrand slotted into the top line causing a bit of reshuffling among the forwards.

 

PROJECTED CBJ LINEUP:

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