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Preview: Jackets eager to face 'golden misfits' in Las Vegas

Columbus hoping extended practice time pays off in first visit to 'Sin City.'

by By Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

GAME 47: BLUE JACKETS (26-18-3) AT GOLDEN KNIGHTS (31-11-4)

Location: T Mobile Arena, 10 P.M., Tuesday

TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go; Fox Sports Southwest (Stars)

Radio: 97.1 FM The Fan & BlueJackets.com

LAS VEGAS - Their fun in the desert is over.

Now, after spending some down time on the Las Vegas Strip, it's time for the Blue Jackets to play hockey again. They haven't played since outlasting the Dallas Stars, 2-1, in a shootout Thursday at Nationwide Arena, and the next opponent will pose quite a challenge.

The Golden Knights have the second-most points in the NHL (66) in their inaugural season, and have a sterling 18-2-2 record on home ice. Vegas briefly had the most points in the league after downing the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 Sunday in Raleigh, N.C., but the Golden Knights were overtaken for the top spot by the Tampa Bay Lightning - who defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 on Monday.

"I think it's a challenge every night against any team," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "There's a little bit more light shed on this here, because I guess everybody's a little surprised how good they are, but we're looking forward to it. From the people I've talked to, all indications are the building's just been fantastic for them, the support, and rightfully so … they don't lose. So, we're going to go about our business, try to enjoy the moment and see if we can find a way."

Columbus is expected to start Sergei Bobrovsky in net, but the answer won't be revealed until after the Blue Jackets' optional morning skate at T-Mobile Arena.

Bobrovsky hasn't played in 10 days, after Tortorella went with Joonas Korpisalo on Thursday against the Stars. He started six straight games heading into the league-mandated, five-day bye last week and went 3-3-0 with 2.15 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.

Prior to allowing four goals against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 12, the last game before the break, Bobrovsky had allowed two-or-fewer goals in five straight games. Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start for the Golden Knights.

"I think it's great for the league, as far as what's going on [in Vegas]," Tortorella said. "That's a good coaching staff. … it's great for the league. It's a great city. I guess the building is just alive [during games]. So, we're looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow night."

It will also be the first time William Karlsson faces his former team, the Blue Jackets, after Vegas selected him in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. Karlsson, a bottom-six center in Columbus for two seasons, centers the Golden Knights' top line and has 40 points (25 goals, 15 assists) in 45 games.

"Not a lot of people expected anything of us," Karlsson said. "Everybody thought we were going to be at the bottom of the standings. So, we have a lot of guys trying to prove ourselves. We're a bunch of golden misfits."

SERIES RECORD

2017-18 Season: (0-0-0). This is the first of two games. The Blue Jackets will host the Golden Knights on Mar. 6 at Nationwide Arena.

All-time (W-L-T-O): 0-0-0-0 overall; 0-0-0-0 at T Mobile Arena

WHO'S HOT

Blue Jackets: Captain Nick Foligno has four points (two goals, two assists) in the past five games, while defenseman Seth Jones had a four-game point streak (one goal, five assists) end Thursday against Dallas.

Golden Knights: Forward James Neal has goals in the past three games, and four in the past six games.

EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS

  • Veteran forward Cam Atkinson got through his first full practice since being sidelined with a fractured bone in his right foot in late December. Atkinson, who was injured Dec. 23 against the Philadelphia Flyers, had surgery Dec. 27 to insert two screws into the bone. He began skating a little more than a week ago, and participated in a couple practices last week. Atkinson participated start to finish Monday, and wouldn't rule out an earlier return than expected. He was supposed to be out four-to-six weeks to let the bone heal, and Wednesday marks the fourth week.
  • The news isn't as upbeat about defenseman Ryan Murray, who has taken a step back in his recovery from an upper-body injury that has held him out since Dec. 27, a span of 23 games. Murray had begun skating, first on his own and then during a practice in Buffalo, and it seemed like he might be getting close to returning. After the Blue Jackets returned from their mandated five-day bye, Murray was back to not skating. He made this trip to Las Vegas, but hasn't skated with the team since the break ended. "Murray is not even in the conversation, as far as getting on the ice right now," Tortorella said Monday. "So, yeah, it is what it is. He's not close."
  • The Blue Jackets completed two trades Monday, and both were for future considerations. First, they dealt defenseman John Ramage, 26, to the Arizona Coyotes, and then they acquired goalie Jeff Zatkoff, 30, from the Los Angeles Kings. Zatkoff will head to the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL, where he will share the net with AHL rookie Matiss Kivlenieks. Brad Thiessen, an AHL veteran, is still out with an injury that's kept him out a month. Zatkoff fills two roles, adding goalie depth to the organization and providing a veteran presence to Kivlenieks.

EYES ON: THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS

  • Despite playing Sunday, and flying back to Las Vegas from North Carolina, the Golden Knights had a handful of players get on the ice Monday at their practice rink in Summerlin, Nev. Top-liners Reilly Smith and Karlsson each got some shooting practice in, while Golden Knights fans filled nearly half the spectator seats. There were even two Golden Knights fans with their faces painted gold and gray.
  • Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves against the Hurricanes on Sunday, which pushed his save percentage (.946) even higher. Fleury also leads all qualified NHL goalies with a 1.68 goals-against average. Fleury is 11-3-2 in 16 starts.
  • Karlsson said he and a few Blue Jackets planned to go out to dinner Monday to catch up with each other. Karlsson and Wennberg, who are Swedish, developed a close friendship while playing together in Columbus the past two seasons.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUE JACKETS

Forwards

Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Josh Anderson

Boone Jenner - Alexander Wennberg - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Matt Calvert - Jussi Jokinen - Nick Foligno

Tyler Motte - Lukas Sedlak - Jordan Schroeder

Defensemen

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Scott Harrington - Markus Nutivaara

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

Others: Markus Hannikainen, Dean Kukan

Injured reserve: Cam Atkinson (fractured foot), Brandon Dubinsky (orbital bone fracture), Ryan Murray (upper body), Sony Milano (torn oblique)

GOLDEN KNIGHTS

Forwards

Jonathan Marchessault - William Karlsson - Reilly Smith

David Perron - Erik Haula - James Neal

Brendan Leipsic - Cody Eakin - Alex Tuch

Will Carrier - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Oscar Lindberg

Defensemen 

Brayden McNabb - Nate Schmidt

Shea Theodore - Derek Engelland

Brad Hunt - Colin Miller

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury

Malcolm Subban

Others: Jason Garrison, Ryan Carpenter, Tomas Nosek (undisclosed)

Injured reserve: Oscar Dansk (undisclosed), Jon Merrill (undisclosed), Luca Sbisa (undisclosed), Clayton Stoner (undisclosed)

LTIR: David Clarkson (back), Mikhail Grabovski (concussion)

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