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PREVIEW: Blue Jackets visit Islanders in last game before Christmas break

Columbus hopes to finish strong while riding a seven-game point streak

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /
BLUE JACKETS (16-14-6) at ISLANDERS (23-8-3) 

Monday, 7 p.m. ET, NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, N.Y. (FOX Sports OhioCBJ appFOX Sports app97.1 The Fan)   

The way things are going for the Blue Jackets, there's no airing of grievances in the locker room. 

That will happen when you're in the midst of a four-game winning streak and seven-game point streak, each of which are season-longs. Even as players seemingly go in and out of the lineup on a daily basis because of injuries, there's a lot of smiles around the team because as the old saying goes, the best way to spell fun is "w-i-n." 

"We're in the middle of a win streak right now, a point streak as well, and the locker room has been awesome," defenseman Zach Werenski said. "It's been fun coming to the rink. Hopefully we can end on a high note." 

That game will come Monday against the Metropolitan Division rival New York Islanders in Uniondale, right in the heart of Long Island. A little closer to the city, in our television lore, a family just a few miles to the west in Queens created a special holiday that gets celebrated this time of year.

It's been more than two decades since the original Festivus episode of Seinfeld aired, yet the zany look at a fake holiday created by Frank Costanza continues to live on. Celebrated each year on Dec. 23, it's a fun way to forget about the commercialism of the holiday season -- or at least that's how the origin story goes. 

As the Blue Jackets get ready to play the Islanders, here's a look at a few Festivus-themed storylines for the team. 

The feats of strength: Throughout much of the season, the Blue Jackets have played good hockey yet found themselves at 11-14-4 after a loss Dec. 7 at Florida. The main culprit was a lack of scoring, as the Blue Jackets weren't capitalizing on chances to put the puck in the net. 

Since then, that certainly has changed, with Columbus posting 24 goals during the seven-game point streak. Since the 1-0 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Dec. 12, Columbus has 19 goals in its last five games. 

In that time, point streaks have started to emerge thanks to strong play from a number of players. Five players are on runs of at least three straight games with points, though one of them -- Oliver Bjorkstrand, who has five goals in the last four games -- will not play vs. the Islanders because of injury. 

Gustav Nyquist (2-5-7 in five games), Boone Jenner (1-4-5 in four games), Pierre-Luc Dubois (2-3-5 in three games) and Seth Jones (0-5-5 in three games) all are riding point streaks, while Eric Robinson (1-3-4 in five games) and Alexandre Texier (2-3-5 in five games) continued strong runs of play with points against the Devils.  

"I think everyone is chipping in," Jenner said. "We're doing things the right way, and the results are starting to come that way through our play." 

The aluminum pole: Much like the Christmas tree is the focal point of any holiday party, the aluminum pole is what ties the room together on Festivus. Right now, goaltender Joonas Korpisalo is the Blue Jackets' version of that. 

Without him, who knows where the team would be. Since the start of November, Korpisalo has been the backbone of the team, playing 19 games and posting a .923 save percentage. He's made the routine saves and a few spectacular ones while playing as consistent a run of hockey as he's put together in his career.  

"I feel pretty good," he said after allowing one goal on 22 shots vs. the Devils. "These last games, there's not too much work for me, so it's nice to be back there. I can see pucks, and guys are doing a great job there of clearing pucks in front, just battling and blocking shots and stuff like this, and scoring goals. It's really nice to play back there right now." 

The airing of grievances: OK, we said there would be no such thing, but if there's an issue right now with the team, it's the continued injuries that have popped up. 

So while no one has a lot of problems with you people on the team, there is a cloud hanging over it when it comes to the injury situation. Bjorkstrand going on the shelf marks another regular out, with seven players on injured reserve now and two others -- Cam Atkinson and Sonny Milano -- on the active roster but out with injuries of late as well. The good news is Milano traveled and David Savard could return after missing the last two games with illness, but it's a severely shorthanded Columbus team at the moment. 

But it's nothing the team plans to use as an excuse. The "next man up" mentality simply has to continue, as the Blue Jackets have battled through to this point to put points and wins on the board of late. 

"(The injuries) happened, but we have to go and win anyway," defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov said. "It doesn't matter who plays." 

Know the Foe 

The Islanders are still the same Islanders they've been under Barry Trotz, placing fourth in the league with 2.56 goals allowed per game. But there have been some dings in the armor of late, with the Islanders giving up eight goals in an 8-3 loss to Nashville on Thursday and then ending up on the wrong end of a 6-5 shootout loss Saturday vs. Anaheim. 

Still, the Isles have been a defensively sound team all year, and all it's done is win, including a 4-1-1 run in the last six games.  

Up front, while defense carries the day for the team, the Islanders average just shy of three goals per game, thanks in part to a power play that's 10th in the NHL at 21.9 percent. Mathew Barzal leads the team in all three major categories with a 15-15-30 line while Brock Nelson isn't far behind with 13 goals and 15 helpers.  

From there, depth takes over. Anthony Beauvillier (10-12-22), Josh Bailey (8-14-22), Anders Lee (10-11-21) and Derick Brassard (8-12-20) all have at least 20 points, while defenseman Ryan Pulock checks in with 18 more with five goals and 13 assists.  

Forward Andrew Ladd, a 14-year veteran and Stanley Cup champion, could make his season debut after skating with the team Sunday, while longtime Blue Jackets nemesis Cal Clutterbuck is out with injury. 

In net, the team has alternated Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss all year until Saturday, when Varlamov got a second straight start. On the year, Varlamov is 12-3-3 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .919 save percentage, while Greiss is at 11-5-0/2.39/.924. 

3 Keys to the Game  

Score first: The Blue Jackets have found out over the past year and a half how hard it is to battle back from a hole against the Islanders. Getting on the board first is crucial.  

Win special teams: In a game where 5-on-5 ice is going to be hard to come by, getting on the board against the Isles' 20th-ranked penalty kill would help. 

Stay patient: No matter what happens, the Islanders are a team you have to just keep chipping away against. Opening up is a surefire way to allow one of New York's offensive threats to get on the board.  

Of Note 

Columbus has lost three straight on Long Island, including a 2-0 shutout suffered Nov. 30. … The Islanders have won both games in the series this year, including a 3-2 overtime win in Columbus on Oct. 19. Seth Jones and Boone Jenner each scored in the game.  

Projected Lineup 

(Subject to change)  

Alexandre Texier - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Eric Robinson 

Gustav Nyquist - Boone Jenner - Kevin Stenlund

Nick Foligno - Alexander Wennberg - Nathan Gerbe

Jakob Lilja - Riley Nash - Ryan MacInnis 

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones  

Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard   

Scott Harrington - Dean Kukan 

Joonas Korpisalo 

Elvis Merzlikins 

Scratches: Sonny Milano (injury), Cam Atkinson (injury), Gabriel Carlsson 

Roster Report: Savard has missed the past two games with illness but made the trip to Long Island and is expected to play. Gerbe will go into the lineup with Oliver Bjorkstrand's injury suffered Saturday night vs. New Jersey, though Milano traveled with the team and returned to take part in a full practice Monday.  





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