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Preview: Jackets face Sabres in nationally televised game

Team enters back half of four-game homestand looking to continue best eight-game start in franchise history

by Brian Hedger BlueJacketsNHL / BlueJackets.com

GAME 9: SABRES (3-5-2) AT BLUE JACKETS (5-3-0)
NATIONWIDE ARENA, 8 P.M., WEDNESDAY
TV: NBCSN
RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM

The Blue Jackets' two longest home stretches are four games each, and they're already halfway through the first one. They're also 0-2-0 in those games, and need a victory against the Buffalo Sabres to avoid a losing record during the homestand.

"It's big," veteran forward Matt Calvert said Tuesday. "We've lost two in a row on our home ice, and our fans have been great for us, cheering loud for us. It's something we really prided ourselves on last year, something we worked on throughout the year, and we became a hard team to play at home. We know teams don't like hearing that cannon, so it's a goal of ours, every night we're on home ice, to get that thing booming."

It boomed four times Saturday night at Nationwide Arena, but the Los Angeles Kings countered by making the red light flash behind the Columbus net six times. The Kings' 6-4 victory spoiled an otherwise exciting night for Blue Jackets fans.

This time, Columbus will face the Sabres, who've won their past two games and are looking to sweep an all-NBCSN televised back-to-back after downing the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 on Tuesday ain Buffalo.

The Sabres' starting goalie isn't known, but Robin Lehner had a 32-save shutout against the Red Wings. Chad Johnson is the other option.

Sergei Bobrovsky has started the past two games for the Blue Jackets, who lost fourth-line center Lukas Sedlak to an ankle injury in practice Monday.

The Sabres are dealing with a spate of injuries, including five lineup regulars.

SERIES RECORD

2017-18 Season: (0-0-0). The teams play twice more this season, Nov. 20 and Jan. 11 in Buffalo.

All-time: 15-10-0; 7-4-0 at Nationwide Arena

 

"BY THE NUMBERS"

  • 0: Number of hat tricks in the all-time series between these teams.
  • 5: Number of career wins Johnson has against the Blue Jackets (5-1-0). It is also the number of even-strength and power-play goals he's allowed against the Jackets.
  • 100: Percentage of successful penalty kills for the Blue Jackets this season at Nationwide Arena. They're 9-for-9 on home ice.
  • 44: Number of man-games the Sabres have already lost via injuries to seven players, including five who are on injured reserve.

 

EYES ON: THE SABRES

  • The Sabres are a top-heavy offensive team. They've been led by a top line that combined for 33 points, with all three forwards - Evander Kane, Jack Eichel and Jason Pominville - posting 11 points in the Sabres' first nine games.
  • Zemgus Girgensons (lower body) and defenseman Justin Falk (undislosed) participated in the Sabres' morning skate Tuesday, prior to the game against the Red Wings. Coach Phil Housley said Girgensons is day-to-day.
  • After going 0-4-1 in its first five games, Buffalo is 3-1-1 in its last five. The Sabres averaged three goals a game in those four contests.
  • Marco Scandella is off to a slow start. Scandella, the second half of Buffalo's return in the trade with Minnesota that also included Pominville, has two assists and a minus-3 rating in nine games. He is also below 50 percent in 5-on-5 Corsi-For (48.6 percent).

 

EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS

  • Look for forward Zac Dalpe to get the first shot at replacing Sedlak in the middle of the fourth line. Dalpe, who was a healthy scratch against the Kings, has previous NHL experience playing center. "It was a tough break, obviously," Calvert said. "In practice, you don't expect to see that happen, especially for the length of time [Sedlak's] expected to be out. He brings a lot to the table with the penalty kill and just being another solid center on our team, and with us struggling a bit on face-offs, there's guys who have to step up in that center role."
  • The Blue Jackets have a 43.2 percent success rate on face-offs, which is about five percentage points lower than what they finished last season (48.6%). Despite the low success rate, they're second in the NHL in both Corsi-for Percentage (55.6%) and Fenwick-for Percentage (56.6%).
  • Captain Nick Foligno centered Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson in practice Monday and Tuesday, and might start out in that role against the Sabres. Alexander Wennberg, who'd been in that spot, centered Foligno's usual line Monday in practice. Wennberg had a maintenance day off Tuesday, but is expected to play.
  • Rookie Sonny Milano leads the Blue Jackets with five goals. He's only taken 14 shots, for a 35.7 shooting percentage. Milano is likely to shift on either the third or fourth line.

 

FUN FACT

Nick Foligno's younger brother, Marcus, was part of the four-player trade that sent Pominville back to Buffalo. The younger Foligno was traded to the Wild, and has three points (two goals, one assist) in five games.

 

QUOTABLES

"I don't even call him a defenseman. I call him a 'rover.' That's what we're trying to turn him into, and I think that's an important position. The way the game's played, our [defenseman] have been very aggressive up the ice, all of them, [but] I think [Zach Werenski] has a whole different level of what he can do." - Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella

"I feel like we've been playing good, and just, we don't have any luck and no bounces. We're getting some bad bounces, so we have to just work harder and get that luck for us." - Blue Jackets defenseman Markus Nutivaara

"We're actually the same age, and I think we were drafted together too. It's [been] years ago now, and [he's] a former Ohio State Buckeye, might I add, for the fans here. So, they'll be cheering for him. It's nice to have him around, though. We've got so many young guys, like Sonny Milano, cruising around this room. It's great to have an older veteran guy who's been in pro hockey for a while." - Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert, on forward Zac Dalpe.

"It means that we followed the gameplan. As I said from Day 1, I think we have a great gameplan. We've just got to do it. We got it deep, we flipped pucks out when we were in doubt. We didn't force plays. Look at that third period. We were just flipping it out, putting it in, kept them going back 200 feet getting it and we had numbers back home. It's hard for teams to do that." - Sabres goalie Robin Lehner, on Buffalo's defensive strategy Tuesday against the Red Wings 

"We can enjoy it tonight, but we know Columbus is waiting for us. They've lost two in a row now, and they haven't played since Saturday, so I'm sure they're going to be ready to play [Wednesday] night. We've got to be ready at the start of the game." - Sabres coach Phil Housley, following Buffalo's 1-0 win Tuesday against the Red Wings

PROJECTED LINEUPS

SABRES

Evander Kane - Jack Eichel - Kyle Okposo

Sam Reinhart - Ryan O'Reilly - Jason Pominville

Jordan Nolan - Benoit Pouliot - Justin Bailey

Matt Moulson - Johan Larsson - Seth Griffith

Rasmus Ristolainen - Marco Scandella

Jake McCabe - Taylor Fedun

Viktor Antipin - Matt Tennyson

Robin Lehner

Chad Johnson

Out: Zemgus Girgensons (lower body), Nathan Beaulieu (upper body), Zach Redmond

Injured reserve: Justin Falk (undisclosed), Evan Rodrigues (hand), Zach Bogosian (lower body), Josh Gorges (lower body), Jacob Josefson (lower body)

 

BLUE JACKETS

Artemi Panarin - Nick Foligno - Cam Atkinson

Boone Jenner - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand 

Pierre-Luc Dubois - Brandon Dubinsky - Josh Anderson

Matt Calvert - Zac Dalpe - Sonny Milano

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

Out: Scott Harrington, Markus Hannikainen

Injured reserve: Gabriel Carlsson (upper body), Lukas Sedlak (ankle)

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