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Preview: Blue Jackets looking to extend record start despite injuries

Columbus will be without three forwards, looking to end Rangers' three-game winning streak

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

GAME 15: BLUE JACKETS (9-4-1) AT RANGERS (6-7-2) 

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, 7 P.M., MONDAY

TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO/FOX SPORTS GO

RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM

NEW YORK - The Blue Jackets have been hit with some injury setbacks up front, but they'll still head into Madison Square Garden on Monday looking to get back on track in the finale of a three-game road trip.

Columbus split the first two games (1-0-1) against both teams in the state of Florida, including a 7-3 rout of the Florida Panthers on Thursday and a 5-4 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night at Amalie Arena.

Despite the loss, the point earned gave the Jackets 19 points, which set a franchise record for the first 14 games of a season. They can set another new high after 15 games with a victory against the Rangers, surpassing the current high of 20 points set last season with a 9-4-2 record.

Columbus also moved past the New Jersey Devils into first place in the Metropolitan Division standings prior to games Sunday. 

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, however, thinks the best might be yet to come. That's what he hopes, anyway.

Several top players for Columbus are off to slow starts offensively, including Brandon Dubinsky, Alexander Wennberg and Artemi Panarin, but their career numbers suggest they're due to heat up soon. The trick will be combining it with scoring from their blue line, led by Zach Werenski and Seth Jones, and depth scoring from guys like Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand.

"If we can get 'em both married a little bit, then you have something," Tortorella said. "But you never know how it works. Maybe they get going, and then the other guys can't find their way."

The Blue Jackets will probably need to marry those two scoring options against the Rangers, who've won three straight games and scored at least four goals in four of their past five games.

SERIES RECORD

2017-18 Season: (0-1-0). This is the second of four games this season. The Blue Jackets will host the Rangers on Nov. 17 and visit Madison Square Garden for the finale Mar. 20, 2018.

All-time: 13-13-3 overall; 5-4-3 at Madison Square Garden

"BY THE NUMBERS"

  • 1: Number of offensive-zone face-offs for Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner during even-strength play Saturday against Tampa Bay. Outside of power plays, Jenner was deployed almost exclusively as a defensive-oriented forward.
  • 10: Amount of consecutive games it's been since Artemi Panarin scored a goal, which is a career-high. Panarin had three nine-game goal-less stretches in his first two NHL seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks.
  • 95: Number of wins in the month of November compiled by the Rangers since the start of the 2005-06 season, which leads the NHL. New York's November record in that span is 95-50-10.
  • 199: Number of points for Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky in his NHL career. He pulled within one of 200 with a game-tying goal in the third period Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning
  • 5,000: Number of dollars Rangers forward Kevin Hayes was fined last week by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for his role in a water-squirting incident that led to fines for three players. Hayes squirted Tampa Bay forward Alex Killorn prior to a face-off, while seated on the bench. Killorn was fined for jabbing at Hayes with his stick in retaliation.

EYES ON: THE RANGERS

  • After starting the season 1-5-2, the Rangers are 5-2-0 in their past seven games and have won three straight - including the past two in the state of Florida against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and Florida Panthers on Saturday.
  • Right wing J.T. Miller is red hot, racking up 11 points in New York's past 10 games. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime Thursday to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena, and then assisted on three goals in the Rangers' 5-4 overtime win Saturday against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. Miller, who skates on the third line, is tied with Mika Zibanejad for the team lead in points (14).
  • The Rangers practiced Sunday, which gave fourth-line center Boo Nieves a chance to get a good skate in with the team before returning. Nieves missed New York's win against the Panthers while out with flu-like symptoms. Nieves got back to his usual role centering the fourth line at practice. Paul Carey, who filled in, will likely be scratched.
  • The Blue Jackets and Rangers just crossed paths recently in Florida. The Rangers stayed at the same hotel as the Jackets in Tampa, after their 2-1 overtime win Thursday against the Lightning, and the teams saw each other again at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, Fla., a few hours later. The Rangers wrapped up practice there as the Blue Jackets arrived.
  • Henrik Lundqvist is expected to make his fourth straight start in net for New York.

EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS

  • The Blue Jackets lost another veteran forward Saturday in Tampa Bay, when Matt Calvert sustained an upper-body injury after being hit hard by Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi at 4:52 of the third period. Calvert flew home to Columbus on Sunday, rather than going with the team to New York. Columbus also placed forward Cam Atkinson (lower body) on injured reserve Sunday, while activating defenseman Gabriel Carlsson from IR. Atkinson has missed three games. Carlsson was injured against the Rangers on Oct. 13 and has missed 10 games.
  • Columbus is looking for a more consistent effort from start to finish than the Blue Jackets had in Tampa Bay. Despite scoring two goals in the first period, one each from their top defense pairing of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones, the Jackets' overall play dipped until they scored twice in the third period.
  • The "rover" concept with Werenski and Jones paid off for the Blue Jackets against the Lightning. Each scored a goal from areas more commonly occupied by forwards, each finished plus-4 in plus/minus rating and neither were on the ice for any of Tampa Bay's three even-strength goals. Their puck-possession numbers were great too. According to naturalstattrick.com, the Blue Jackets had 72.2 percent more 5-on-5 shot attempts with Werenski on the ice (26-10) and 64.8 percent more with Jones (24-13). They each were on the ice for more face-offs in the defensive zone than offensive zone.
  • Sergei Bobrovsky had a personal four-game win streak snapped against the Lightning, but hasn't lost in regulation in his past five after the shootout loss. Bobrovsky made 37 saves against the Rangers Oct. 13 at Nationwide Arena in the first game this season. The Blue Jackets didn't have a morning skate Monday, but Bobrovsky and Joonas Korpisalo each got some work in. Bobrovsky was last off the ice. 

QUOTABLES

"It's not difficult. It's what we are right now, and you've got to find a way. We're not the only team that is still trying to figure out maybe what their lines are, and what our depth is, as far as the forward lines. So, we've got to work through it." - Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella

"Oh, tell him to shut up." - Tortorella, when told prior to the game against the Lightning that Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said the Blue Jackets were better since the teams played Oct. 19 at Nationwide Arena.

"It's a really good lesson, I think, for our league right now. Not to go on, and get in trouble, but our guys ran. They ran hard. They ran hard on the ice, and as I'm finding out, they ran hard off the ice. But they did it together. That's what they say to me is, 'That's what helped us win.'" - Tortorella on 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the Stanley Cup with Tortorella as coach.

"There's no doubt that's been a real positive, as far as the mind-set that we just don't stop, and we just keep plugging away." - Rangers coach Alain Vigneault

"We saw them earlier this year. They're a team that has a lot of depth up front, and some great defenseman too, and obviously a bigtime goaltender. So, there are a lot of areas that we're going to be tested." - Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh on the Blue Jackets

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUE JACKETS

Forward lines

Artemi Panarin - Nick Foligno - Josh Anderson

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Tyler Motte - Alexander Wennberg - Markus Hannikainen

Sonny Milano - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Zac Dalpe

Defense pairings

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

OR

Joonas Korpisalo

Out: Gabriel Carlsson, Matt Calvert (upper body), Scott Harrington

Injured reserve: Cam Atkinson (lower body), Lukas Sedlak (ankle)

(NOTE: After losing Calvert, Tortorella mixed and matched forwards quite a bit. After the game, Tortorella said he has no idea what the lines would look like without Calvert or Atkinson.)

RANGERS

Forward lines

Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich

Rick Nash - Kevin Hayes - Mats Zuccarello

Jimmy Vesey - David Desharnais - J.T. Miller

Michael Grabner -Boo Nieves - Jesper Fast

Defense pairings 

Marc Staal - Steven Kampfer

Nick Holden - Ryan McDonagh

Brady Skjei - Kevin Shattenkirk

Goaltenders

Henrik Lundqvist

Ondrej Pavelec

Out: Paul Carey, Brendan Smith

Injured reserve: None

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