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Preview: Blue Jackets want to rev the engine sooner against Bruins

Slow starts have plagued the Jackets in the early part of this season; Atkinson status unknown.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

GAME 12: BRUINS (4-3-2) AT BLUE JACKETS (7-4-0) 

NATIONWIDE ARENA, 7 P.M., MONDAY

TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO/FOX SPORTS GO

RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM

The Blue Jackets are searching for answers about a frustrating early trend.

They're getting outplayed at the start of games too often, and it's put them behind early. It's a difficult way to win games, and they know it needs to be corrected.

"It shouldn't just frustrate me," coach John Tortorella said, after a 4-1 road loss to the St. Louis Blues. "It should frustrate the team. That's the most important part, and we're going to try to fix that."

Their first opportunity will be against the Boston Bruins on Monday, and it's unknown whether they will have forward Cam Atkinson. Columbus finished the third period against St. Louis without Atkinson, who left the game after taking two shifts in the third.

Coach John Tortorella did not have an update on Atkinson's status after the game, and the Blue Jackets were off Sunday. They held an optional morning skate Monday, and Atkinson got on the ice for some of it. The Jackets recalled forward Tyler Motte from the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League on Monday, and he also skated in the morning.

The full Blue Jackets team will arrive later for game-day meetings, and then hit the ice looking for a faster start. They stumbled out of the gate in both halves of the their back-to-back over the weekend, and were fortunate to split the two games.

Their sluggish start Saturday in St. Louis factored into the loss, along with a number of missed opportunities to score.

"I thought we had a lot of scoring chances, and we couldn't find a way to bury them, and we have to," center Brandon Dubinsky said. "We've got to come out here and play a simple, hard game, straight forward, forechecking … you could tell right from the first couple shifts [against the Blues], we weren't getting pucks deep, we were having turnovers in the neutral zone and they were jamming it down our throat. Hopefully we can learn from this, and we'll continue to try and hammer it home, and be better from the get go."

The Bruins are coming off an unlikely 2-1 overtime loss Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. Despite 0.9 seconds remaining in OT, the Kings won a face-off in the Boston zone and Tyler Toffoli blasted it past goalie Tuukka Rask before time expired.

The goal was reviewed and upheld after video showed the puck crossing the goal line in time. Despite the defeat, the Bruins have notched points in four straight games (2-0-2).

SERIES RECORD

2017-18 Season: (0-0-0). This is the first of three games this season. The Blue Jackets will visit Boston's TD Garden on Dec. 18 and Mar. 19.

All-time: 9-9-6 overall; 5-5-3 at Nationwide Arena

"BY THE NUMBERS"

  • 6: Number of home games Columbus has strung together without allowing a power-play goal. That is a franchise record to start the season. Thus far, the Blue Jackets are 16-for-16 in killing penalties at Nationwide Arena.
  • 8: Number of goals Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has allowed on 191 shots in his six wins. That works out to a blistering .958 save percentage.
  • 23: Number of shorthanded goals scored by Bruins forward Brad Marchand in his NHL career. It's the most in the league since 2009-10, when Marchand was a rookie.
  • 449: Combined plus/minus rating of Boston's Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara since the start of the 2010-11 season. Marchand (plus-163), Bergeron (plus-147) and Chara (plus-139) rank first, third and fourth in the NHL over that span.
  • 67: Alexander Wennberg's face-off win percentage against the Blues. Wennberg, who's struggled winning face-offs this season, has now won 41.8 percent of his draws.

EYES ON: THE BRUINS

  • Since winning his first start this season, Rask hasn't won in his past four (0-3-1). In those four games, he's posted a 2.97 goals-against average and .894 save percentage. His career averages are 2.25 GAA and .922 save percentage.
  • Riley Nash was sent into the boards face first against the Kings, and left the game to get medical attention. Coach Bruce Cassidy said there was no concussion issue, but Nash did get a cut. He should be fine to play against the Blue Jackets.
  • Veteran center David Backes has 499 career points (273 goals, 276 assists), while Marchand - who scored the Bruins' lone goal against the Kings - has 199 career NHL goals.
  • Rask will start again for Boston. He will be backed up by goalie Zane McIntyre, who was recalled on an emergency basis Sunday from Providence of the American Hockey League. The Bruins are also scheduled to re-evaluate veteran center David Krejci for an upper-body injury that has cost him three games.

EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS

  • Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start for the Blue Jackets, after getting a day off against the Blues. Bobrovsky had made 63 saves against 65 shots in his past two starts, which were wins against the Buffalo Sabres last Wednesday and Winnipeg Jets on Friday.
  • Columbus went 6-for-6 in penalty killing against the Jets, which bumped their season total for killing penalties at Nationwide Arena to 16-for-16. It's the Blue Jackets' longest streak to begin a season without allowing a power-play goal on home ice (six games), and they tied the franchise record for number of penalties killed on home ice to begin a season. Columbus also killed its first 16 penalties on home ice in 2007-08. The Jackets have also killed off 15 straight penalties overall, including 3-for-3 against the Blues on Saturday.
  • If Atkinson isn't able to play, it will be interesting to see how Tortorella aligns his forwards. Markus Hannikainen might make his first appearance since Game 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes, when his turnover late in the third period led to a game-tying goal. Rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois might get the first chance to play in Atkinson's spot at right wing on the second line, where he spent a couple shifts after Atkinson left the game Saturday.
  • Rookie Sonny Milano has the offensive skills to play in a top-six role, but only played six shifts against the Blues - including one each in the second and third periods. Milano played just 3:17 in the game, including 40 seconds of power-play time.

QUOTABLES

"It's something we're going to have to figure out, I guess. Sometimes, you can't put your finger on it. It's just being ready for hockey games. I say it a lot, we're a young hockey team, but we should be young, we should be fresh, we should be ready to go. It's something I think we'll talk about this week and try to improve on." - Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert on the team's propensity to ease into games.

"We've dropped a few against top teams in the league, and we've said all along we want to be one of those teams. And you've got to beat those teams to get to the top. The schedule's tough every night. There's never an easy game, but winning in St. Louis' barn, I think would've been a big step. But we'll keep on working, we'll keep getting better and we'll find a way." - Calvert

"We were chasing the game. When you chase a team like that, especially with a veteran club, a good team in this league, it's tough to crawl back into it." - Blue jackets coach John Tortorella on the loss to St. Louis

"Do you wonder how it could happen? I mean, if someone told you before they could score in 0.9 seconds, drop the puck, win it and shoot it, you'd probably say, 'I don't know … I don't know. Boy, that's tough. I'm not sure you can do it again if you tried it 100 times with no players on the ice." - Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, on Boston's last-second overtime loss to the Kings on Saturday

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS

Forward lines

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Anders Bjork

Jake Debrusk - David Backes - David Pastrnak

Frank Vatrano - Riley Nash - Kenny Agostino

Tim Schaller - Sean Kuraly - Danton Heinen

Defense pairings 

Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug - Charlie McAvoy

Paul Postma - Kevan Miller

Goaltenders

Tuukka Rask

Zane McIntyre

Out: David Krejci (upper body), Matt Beleskey, Anton Khudobin (undisclosed)

Injured reserve: Noel Acciari (left index finger surgery), Ryan Spooner (groin), Adam McQuaid (fractured right fibula)

BLUE JACKETS

Forward lines

Artemi Panarin - Nick Foligno - Josh Anderson

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Matt Calvert - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Sonny Milano - Zac Dalpe - Pierre-Luc Dubois

Defense pairings

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

Out: Markus Hannikainen, Scott Harrington

Injured reserve: Gabriel Carlsson (undisclosed), Lukas Sedlak (ankle)

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