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Preview: Jackets focused on power plays as road trip begins in Florida

Tortorella still looking for more shot, less passing, when Jackets have a man-advantages.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

GAME 12: BLUE JACKETS (8-4-0) AT PANTHERS (4-6-1) 

BB&T Center, 7:30 P.M., THURSDAY

TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO/FOX SPORTS GO

RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM

After going 5-2-0 at home during the season's first month, the Blue Jackets are hitting the road for the next three games against the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers.

Columbus finished the month of October playing five of its final six games at Nationwide Arena, and concluded the stretch with a 4-3 win in a shootout Monday against the Boston Bruins.

The Blue Jackets are third in the Metropolitan Division with 16 points, two behind the first-place New Jersey Devils. Despite a power play that's struggling and a tendency to start games slowly, the Jackets have found ways to win thus far.

"The penalty killing's been really good," said Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, whose PK units were ranked sixth in the league (84.4 percent) on Wednesday. "We have lived a little bit here, and found a way to win some games, really, basically, without a power play."

The Jackets were unable to build off their fast start against the Bruins on Monday, coughing up a 3-0 lead, primarily because they went 0-for-5 on power plays. They're now 3 of 35 (8.6 percent) overall on power plays, which ranks 31st in the league. That includes 0-for-13 in five road games.

"The last game we played, it's zero setup," Tortorella said. "The concept, the foundation that we did have, even though it was struggling, was out the window the last game - and that's just frustration. Guys start trying to turn into individuals, and you're just not on the same page. We had a very extensive meeting [Wednesday], before we went on the ice, as far as explaining roles, explaining the concept and hopefully we'll get something done here."

SERIES RECORD

2017-18 Season: (0-0-0). This is the first of three games this season. The Blue Jackets will host the Panthers on Jan. 7 and Mar. 22.

All-time: 15-7-2 overall; 6-5-1 at BB&T Center

"BY THE NUMBERS"

  • 0: Number of overtime losses for the Blue Jackets through the first 12 games. Columbus has gone past regulation four times, split evenly between road and home games.
  • 5: Number of teams in the NHL with a better goal differential than the Jackets' plus-7.
  • 29.4: Shooting percentage of rookie forward Sonny Milano, who still leads the Jackets with five goals. Milano was scratched Monday against the Bruins, which was the first time this season he hasn't played.
  • .900: Number that both Panthers goaltenders are under in save percentage. Antti Niemi (.889) and James Reimer .(898) are both off to rocky starts.

EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS

  • Columbus practiced Wednesday before flying to South Florida to begin the road trip. Cam Atkinson (lower body) did not get on the ice for a second straight day, and is day-to-day. Defenseman Gabriel Carlsson (lower-body) went through his second straight practice, but is also day-to-day. The Blue Jackets will likely start Sergei Bobrovsky in net.
  • Tyler Motte, who scored a goal Monday against the Boston Bruins in his Blue Jackets debut, skated in Atkinson's spot at right wing on the second line in practice, with Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky. Motte was recalled Monday from the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League, after he had a hat trick and scored four goals in his previous two AHL games.
  • The Blue Jackets worked on special teams to conclude practice, after having their pre-practice meeting about the power-play units. They came to the same conclusion as Tortorella, that too many guys are trying to fix the woes by themselves. "What happens is when you don't have success, you start to go on your own program, your own page," said captain Nick Foligno, who's on the top power-play unit. "You watch our power play, and we just look out of sync. It's just human nature. It's not because guys are doing it maliciously. It's just you're wanting to help the team so badly, you try to help more than you should."
  • Once Carlsson returns, the Blue Jackets will have to make a roster move. They're currently at the maximum of 23 players on the active roster, and Carlsson would give them eight defensemen. Carlsson had played the right side of the third defense pairing to start the season, prior to his injury. Since he's been out, Markus Nutivaara has handled the bulk of action in that role, ahead of Scott Harrington.

EYES ON: THE PANTHERS

  • Florida is fifth in the Atlantic Division after dropping its past two games. The Panthers are looking to get back on track after losing 8-5 to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night at BB&T Center. The Panthers are 1-1-1 during a five-game homestand, which concludes with games Thursday against the Blue Jackets and Saturday against the New York Rangers.
  • In the game Monday against the Lightning, the Panthers' top line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov finished with a combined three goals and 10 points. Each of them scored a goal, while Barkov added three assists for a career-high four-point game. Each has 14 points for the season.
  • Florida's scoring depth thus far is non-existent. Vincent Trocheck, who has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) is the only player outside of the dynamic top line with double- digits in points.
  • Reimer started in net for the Panthers on Monday, but allowed five goals on 19 shots and was replaced by Niemi, who allowed two goals on 18 shots. A starter between the two has not been announced.

QUOTABLES

"I'd just like to see a guy take a shot." - Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, on his team's power play.

"Law of averages, you get that many good players on a unit together, good things are going to happen. It's just a feeling out process. It's just guys that want to do so well, and have success so badly, that it almost works the opposite way. We've just got to relax, know who we are and get into it, and I guarantee the success will start happening before long." - Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno on lagging power-play

"It's gotten to the point with the frustration level, that it was individual stuff the last game, and we're very fortunate. We find a way to win another game, without a power play." - Tortorella on power-play struggles

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUE JACKETS

Forward lines

Artemi Panarin - Nick Foligno - Josh Anderson

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Tyler Motte

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: Cam Atkinson, Markus Hannikainen, Scott Harrington

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

 

PANTHERS

Forward lines

Jonthan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov

Jamie McGinn - Vincent Trocheck - Radim Vrbata

Nick Bjugstad - Derek MacKenzie - Owen Tippett

Michael Haley - Denis Malgin - Chase Balisy

Defense pairings 

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad

Ian McCoshen - Mark Pysyk

Michael Matheson - Mackenzie Weegar

Goaltenders

James Reimer

Antti Niemi

Out: Connor Brickley (upper body), Alex Petrovic

Injured reserve: Roberto Luongo (upper body), Jared McCann (lower body), Colton Sceviour (upper body)

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