GAME 56: BLUE JACKETS (28-23-4) AT ISLANDERS (27-23-6)
Location: Barclays Center, 7 P.M., Tuesday
TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go; MSG+
Radio: 97.1 FM & BlueJackets.com
The last time the Blue Jackets visited New York, they put 49 shots on goal against the New York Islanders and lost, 4-3, after setting a franchise record for shots in a period with 26 in the first.
It was a tough game to swallow for the Jackets, who were swept in a back-to-back that began the night before against the San Jose Sharks. That was the third winless game in a row for Columbus, which lost its next two games before ending a five-game skid Saturday with a 6-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Nationwide Arena.
Prior to that game, the Blue Jackets struggled to generate enough goals for an extended stretch, averaging 1.87 goals per game in their previous 15 games. They've scored a total of 14 in the first three games against the Islanders, outshooting them by a total of 121-102.
"To me, in the National Hockey League, it's a box of chocolates," Columbus coach John Tortorella said Monday, quoting the movie 'Forrest Gump.' "You just never know what you're going to get, on how teams play you, [or] how our team's going to be. We put a puck in the net [Saturday], get it taken away early in the game - which should've been a goal - and then we score six. You just never know what's going to happen. So, you've got to remain calm and consistent, and just try to be as good as you can be as a team."
The Blue Jackets are consistent in at least one area of late: shots on goal. Starting with the last game against the Islanders, they've outshot their past four opponents by significant margins. As a whole, they've outshot the opposition 175-115 in those games, which set a franchise record for shots in any four-game span.
In the past two games alone, against the Washington Capitals on Friday and Devils on Saturday, Columbus had a combined 87-52 advantage in shots. Now, it's the Islanders again, who are allowing more than 35 shots a game and were outshot 42-25 in a 3-2 loss Sunday to the Calgary Flames.
"We weren't scoring many goals, but as soon as we started shooting the puck more, it was like, 'Bounces are going to come our way,'" said forward Josh Anderson, who scored his team-leading 17th goal in the game against the Devils. "It seemed to do that against New Jersey."
New York and Columbus are tied with 60 points, each just one point back of the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
"Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot right now, so it's going to be a good game," Anderson said. "We're going to try and shoot the puck as much as we can and generate scoring chances."
2017-18 Season: (2-1-0). This is the finale of the four-game season series. The Islanders, who lost 5-0 on Oct. 6 in the season-opener and 6-4 on Dec. 14, overcame a barrage of shots Feb. 2 at Barclays Center to defeat the Blue Jackets in the third game.
All-time (W-L-T-O): 19-9-1-5 overall; 6-7-0-2 in New York
Blue Jackets: Pierre-Luc Dubois and left wing Artemi Panarin have each scored goals in the past two games. Panarin has six points (three goals, three assists) in the past six games.
Islanders: Brock Nelson has seven points (four goals, three assists) in the past five games, including a hat trick and the game-winner in a 7-6 overtime comeback win Friday against the Detroit Red Wings.
EYES ON: BLUE JACKETS
- Defenseman Ryan Murray continues to make steady progress toward returning to the lineup. Murray, who's on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, practiced with the team again Monday and is cleared for full contact. Murray has missed 31 games with the injury, which forced him to leave in the third period of the Blue Jackets' 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 27 at Bell Centre. "I want to be out there playing," Murray said. "It's been a long process, and I just want to get back out there. That's my only focus."
- Columbus skated with the same forward lines and defense pairings in practice Monday at Nationwide Arena. Center Lukas Sedlak and injured forward Sonny Milano rotated into the lines to get repetitions, while Murray worked with Dean Kukan as a fourth defense pairing. Murray and Milano (torn oblique) are on injured reserve but made the trip. Sedlak and Kukan were healthy scratches against the Devils, as Jussi Jokinen centered the fourth line and Scott Harrington took Kukan's spot on the third defense pairing.
- The Blue Jackets successfully killed off the only power play New Jersey had Saturday to end a string of seven straight games allowing a power-play goal. They've killed 14 of the past 24 power plays faced in the past 10 games (58.3 percent). "They have worked very hard at it," Tortorella said. "I think [Jokinen's] added just a little bit of moxie and veteran leadership with it. We're going to get tested as we go through here."
EYES ON: THE ISLANDERS
- Defenseman Johnny Boychuk will play his third game since returning from nearly two months off with a lower-body injury. Boychuk, who left the lineup Dec. 27 and missed 18 games, plays with Nick Leddy on the top pairing. Boychuk doesn't have a point and has a minus-4 plus/minus rating in his first two games back. After playing 15:18 in his first game back, a stunning 7-6 comeback win for New York in overtime on Friday, he played 17:23 on Sunday against the Calgary Flames.
- New York is expected to start goalie Jaroslav Halak again. Halak, who's started the past four games for the Islanders, was in net for New York's victory the last time they played Columbus, making 46 saves. He made 25 saves on 26 shots in the first period alone in that game, keeping his team close enough to tie it, 1-1, toward the end of the period. The win improved Halak's career record against the Blue Jackets to 13-5-3 in 22 games, with a 2.65 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Thomas Greiss started the first two games against Columbus this season, taking two losses and allowing five goals in each game.
- Forward Cal Clutterbuck practiced Monday, a day after taking a stick in the neck area and leaving early against the Calgary Flames. Clutterbuck is the right wing of the third line, with Andrew Ladd and Nelson. Clutterbuck's presence at practice meant the Islanders skated with the same forward lines as they had Sunday against Calgary.
Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Oliver Bjorkstrand - Alexander Wennberg - Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Josh Anderson
Matt Calvert - Jussi Jokinen - Markus Hannikainen
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Jack Johnson - Markus Nutivaara
Scott Harrington - David Savard
Others: Lukas Sedlak , Dean Kukan
Injured reserve: Ryan Murray (upper body), Sony Milano (torn oblique)
Anders Lee - John Tavares - Josh Bailey
Anthony Beauvillier - Mathew Barzal - Jordan Eberle
Andrew Ladd - Brock Nelson - Cal Clutterbuck
Ross Johnston - Casey Cizikas - Jason Chimera
Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuck
Adam Pelech - Sebastian Aho
Thomas Hickey - Ryan Pulock
Others: Alan Quine, Dennis Seidenberg, Tanner Fritz (upper body)
Injured Reserve: Nikolay Kulemin (upper body), Calvin de Haan (upper body), Shane Prince (lower body), Scott Mayfield (lower body)