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Preview: Blue Jackets looking to play better, win third straight

Third-period letdown in New York earlier this month still fresh in their minds.

by Brian Hedger JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

GAME 20: RANGERS (9-8-2) AT BLUE JACKETS (11-7-1)

NATIONWIDE ARENA, 7 P.M., FRIDAY

TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO/FOX SPORTS GO

RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM

It wasn't the 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Nov. 6 at Madison Square Garden that bothers the Blue Jackets as much as the way they lost.

Columbus led, 2-1, after 40 minutes, and then played arguably their worst period of the season. The Blue Jackets lost two one-goal leads in the third period, and allowed three power-play goals after taking three costly penalties.

"I thought we [threw] one away this year with the lack of discipline," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said Thursday, after practice at Nationwide Arena. "We lost ourselves there."

It was the second loss in what became a four-game winless skid (0-3-1). It was also the continuation of a recent trend. The Rangers scored multiple goals in the third period against the Blue Jackets last season multiple times.

New York scored four times in the third in the Jackets' 6-4 victory Jan. 7 at Madison Square Garden, and the Rangers then came back to win, 5-4, with three goals in the third on Jan. 31 at Nationwide Arena.

"I don't know what it is," Tortorella said. "But [Friday], the biggest thing I'm thinking about is just our start. I'd just like to see us get consistent with our starts. I thought we had a pretty good one against Montreal [on Tuesday], but as the game went on, I thought we faded. Why it gets a little funky [in the third against the Rangers], I don't know."

The Blue Jackets got one back against the Rangers in the first game of this season, on Artemi Panarin's game-winning goal at 7:25 of the third, but New York went right back to trend earlier this month.

SERIES RECORD

2017-18 Season: (1-1-0). This is the third of four games this season. The Blue Jackets will visit Madison Square Garden for the finale Mar. 20.

All-time: 13-14-4 overall; 8-9-0 at Nationwide Arena

"BY THE NUMBERS"

  • 4: Goals allowed by Bobrovsky in his past three starts combined. The Blue Jackets' goalie has made 86 saves on 90 shots in that timeframe, for a blistering .956 save percentage.

 

  • 5.7: Drop In 5-on-5 shot-attempts percentage for the Blue Jackets in their past nine games (49.4%), as compared to their first 10 games (55.1%). Overall, Columbus is at 52.4 percent, which ranks sixth in the NHL.

 

  • 8: Points for Artemi Panarin in six career games against the Rangers (six goals, two assists). This includes a goal in both games this season, each scored against Rangers star goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

 

  • 10: Consecutive games without a point for Columbus captain Nick Foligno, which is the third-longest offensive drought of his career. He went 11 games without a point in 2007-08 as a rookie with the Ottawa Senators and a career-high 12 games in 2015-16 with Columbus.

 

  • 11: Numbers of times the Rangers have scored three-or-more goals in their past 13 games.

 

EYES ON: THE RANGERS

 

  • Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has started 16 of New York's first 19 games, and is on pace to start 69 times this season. The last time he started close to that many was 67 starts in 2010-11. Lundqvist made his seventh straight start in the Rangers' 6-3 loss Wednesday to the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. He was pulled in the third period, after allowing four goals on 34 shots - including three goals on nine shots in the third.

 

  • New York's Jimmy Vesey played in Chicago with a full plastic cage to protect the stitches in his lower lip, following an incident in the Rangers 4-2 win Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers. Vesey got tangled up with Edmonton's Zack Kassian, tumbled to the ice and was struck in the mouth by the toe of Kassian's skate. The blade didn't hit him, but the plastic boot knocked out two teeth, which then became embedded in his lower lip. Vesey returned for the third period, and played the entire game Wednesday against the Blackhawks.

 

  • Brendan Smith has been a healthy scratch the past four games for the Rangers, who acquired the defenseman for two draft picks (second and third round) at the trade deadline last season. Smith, who's been scratched six times this season, signed a four-year, $17.4 million contract extension. There is a chance he will make his return to the lineup against Columbus.

 

  • The Rangers went 0-for-3 on the power play against the Blackhawks, but entered that game red hot with the man-advantage. New York was 5-of-8 on power plays in its previous three games, and is ranked fourth in the NHL (24.6 percent).

 

EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS

 

  • Columbus has scored just one goal in regulation time in each of its past four games, as the Blue Jackets are now struggling to score in all situations. Thursday a practice, they made a couple tweaks to the power play units, with second-year defenseman Zach Werenski moving from the top unit - where he was playing along the right half-wall - to the point on the second unit. The Blue Jackets are 5-for-54 on the power play through 19 games (9.3 percent) and have allowed two shorthanded goals.

 

"There's so many talented guys in this league, especially on our team," Werenski said. "We're put in a position to succeed on the power play, and we haven't. It's kind of surprising, but I think moving forward we're just going to stick to what we know. Simplify it, shoot pucks and I'm sure we'll find the back of the net sometimes."

 

  • Center Alexander Wennberg didn't practice for the second time this week, and is day-to-day with what Tortorella is calling a "body" injury. Center Lukas Sedlak and forward Zac Dalpe returned to practice, but neither will play. There is no set timetable for Sedlak to return from a severe ankle sprain, while Dalpe is reportedly on waivers, according to multiple news outlets. Jordan Schroeder could center the Jackets' fourth line for the second straight game.

 

  • There might be a change in the Blue Jackets' defense pairings. Gabriel Carlsson worked with Jack Johnson during practice Thursday. Johnson's usual partner, David Savard, worked with Scott Harrington, who's only played two games and was a healthy scratch in the past seven in a row. Savard has played all 19 games and has six points (two goals, four assists). He has one goal, two assists and a minus-4 plus/minus rating in the past 10 games.

 

  • The Blue Jackets continue to be successful past regulation. Their overtime victory Tuesday against Montreal upped their record to 6-1 in games that have ended in either OT or a shootout.

 

QUOTABLES

"I get analytics that say, 'Well you won the Corsi, but lost the game.' 'You didn't win the Corsi, we won the game.' I don't know what all those things mean. I really don't. But I know through my eyes, we just don't play under the hash enough, and I just don't think we're hard enough on teams." - Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella.

"I think our mentality right now is just shoot everything and put pucks on net. There's never a bad shot in hockey, especially on our power play and how it's going right now. I think we're just going to put a lot of pucks on net and have our net front guys just stand there and bang away." - Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski on the Blue Jackets' power play.

"We'll see if they start crying when I go home. Hopefully they'll still like me." - Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard, on what his young kids will think of his new look, after shaving off his beard for charity.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

RANGERS

Forward lines (12)

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 (6)

Marc Staal - Steven Kampfer

Nick Holden - Ryan McDonagh

Brady Skjei - Kevin Shattenkirk

 

Goaltenders

Henrik Lundqvist

Ondrej Pavelec

 

Power Play 1

Kreider - Zuccarello - Buchnevich

Zibanejad - Shattenkirk 

 

Power Play 2

Vesey - Miller - Nash

McDonagh - Skjei

Others: Paul Carey, Brendan Smith

Injured reserve: None

 

BLUE JACKETS

Forward lines (12)

Artemi Panarin - Nick Foligno - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Tyler Motte - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Josh Anderson

Sonny Milano - Jordan Schroeder - Markus Hannikainen

 

Defense pairings (6)

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara

 

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

 

Power Play 1

Foligno

 

Atkinson - Bjorkstrand - Panarin

 

Jones

 

Power Play 2

Jenner

 

Milano - Dubois - Dubinsky

 

Werenski

 

Others: Scott Harrington, Gabriel Carlsson

Injured reserve: Lukas Sedlak (ankle), Matt Calvert (upper body), Zac Dalpe (upper body)

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