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PREVIEW: Blue Jackets look to get back on track vs. St. Louis

Columbus faces defending champs in first end of a back-to-back

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

BLUE JACKETS (5-5-2) at BLUES (7-3-3)   

Friday, 8 p.m., Enterprise Center, St. Louis (FOX Sports OhioCBJ appFOX Sports app97.1 The Fan)   

Head coach John Tortorella spelled out what must be a key trait for the Blue Jackets after consecutive setbacks vs. Philadelphia and Edmonton over the past week. 

"The urgency -- that's with capital letters," Tortorella said after the loss to Edmonton. "That's what has to happen." 

The Blue Jackets had appeared to find their footing after an 0-2 start, going 5-1-2 over the next eight games to enter the Philadelphia game at 5-3-2. But the past two games have been short of the mark, as sloppy play and that lack of urgency have resulted in a pair of games in which Columbus has been outscored 11-5. At one point between the two games, the Blue Jackets gave up nine consecutive goals in a span of 35 minutes. 

Simply put, that's not good enough, and the team knows it. 

"A lot of things in there are disappointing," captain Nick Foligno said postgame after the loss to the Oilers. "That's two games in a row where we probably haven't played our best. It has to be nipped in the bud here pretty soon." 

The challenge won't be an easy one, as the Blue Jackets will face a pair of playoff teams from a year ago over the weekend as Columbus continues a six-game jaunt against Western Conference teams. 

First up is a road game at St. Louis, the defending Stanley Cup champions, who play a bruising, physical game that helped it get through last year's postseason gantlet. After that is a return home to Columbus on Saturday night to host a speedy, talented Calgary team that has struggled out of the gate but was one of the NHL's top-scoring teams a year ago. 

The Blue Jackets have long considered themselves a team that can play with both speed and skill as well as grit and heart, and the weekend will be a test of that.  

"I didn't find we had the same jump (the last two games) that we've had in the first 10 games, so I'm not sure why, but we have to rectify that," Foligno said. "We're a team that is built for speed. Our attack, our defense, everything we do is built off quickness. … That has to be all game long, and it has been for a while, so we have to make sure we get it back vs. St. Louis." 

Know the Foe 

The defending Stanley Cup champions are again a tough squad to play against, from their imposing size to the impressive goaltending of Jordan Binnington that has the team off to a 7-3-3 start. But it hasn't always been roses, as the team's goal margin is even at 39-39 through 13 games.  

Three players are operating at a point-per-game pace in Brayden Schenn (9-4-13), David Perron (6-7-13) and Ryan O'Reilly (3-10-13), which Schenn checking in at ninth in the NHL in goals. Jaden Schwartz adds a 1-9-10 line, while Vladimir Tarasenko has 3-7-10 but is done for the next five months with a shoulder injury. Alex Pietrangelo continues to be one of the top blueliners in the game with a 5-4-9 line. 

In net, Binnington so far is showing his sudden rise to prominence a season ago is no fluke, as he's started 11 games -- tied for the most in the NHL -- and has a 6-2-3 record, 2.52 GAA and .918 save percentage. He will get the nod against the Blue Jackets for his sixth straight start.

The team's power play is clicking at 23.8 percent, while the penalty kill is strong at 82.5. The Blues are also among the best faceoff teams in the league at 54.3 percent. 

3 Keys to the Game  

Score first: Columbus is 5-0-0 this year when scoring first and 0-5-2 when giving up the opening tally. In a situation where a lead should help put the Jackets back on the right track, getting an early one could be key. 

Think fast: A couple of players rued the fact the Blue Jackets simply didn't play quickly enough with the puck against Edmonton. Moving north-south with some speed should be a focus vs. St. Louis. 

Protect the net: The Blue Jackets left Korpisalo out to dry a bit in the past two games. Whoever is in the net will need the 18 in front of him committed to team defense.  

Of Note  

Oliver Bjorkstrand remains one point away from 100 in his career (46-53-99) while Riley Nash is one assist away from 100 in his career. Boone Jenner needs two helpers to reach that mark. … Zach Werenski has 41 career goals for the Blue Jackets, tying Rostislav Klesla (2001-11) for most all-time. Seth Jones and David Savard are each at 40 tallies. … The teams split last year's season series, with Columbus 5-4-1 in the last 10 games. … Jenner had two goals in the two games a season ago vs. the Blues. 

Projected Lineup   

(Subject to change)   

Gustav Nyquist - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson   

Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner- Josh Anderson

Sonny Milano - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand    

Jakob Lilja - Riley Nash - Emil Bemstrom   

Vladislav Gavrikov - Seth Jones

Scott Harrington - David Savard

Zach Werenski - Dean Kukan 

Elvis Merzlikins (confirmed starter)

Joonas Korpisalo    

Scratches: Markus Hannikainen, Markus Nutivaara

Roster Report: The Blue Jackets recalled Hannikainen from AHL Cleveland to accompany them on the trip with the back-to-back on tap. Merzlikins will start in net while Scott Harrington goes in for Markus Nutivaara, a healthy scratch.





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