GAME 67: GOLDEN KNIGHTS (42-18-5) AT BLUE JACKETS (33-28-5)
Location: Nationwide Arena, 7 P.M., Tuesday
TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go (Jeff Rimer, Jody Shelley); AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountains
Radio: 97.1 FM & BlueJackets.com (Bob McElligott)
The Blue Jackets have another big challenge ahead.
The Vegas Golden Knights will make their first-ever visit to Columbus looking to sweep the two-game season series from the Blue Jackets, who won't have their top goalie in net. Sergei Bobrovsky is sick and Joonas Korpisalo - who's allowed five goals in each of his past two games - will get the start in net.
"It's just like anybody that we've talked about here, guys that have had, you'd have to say 'off' years," Columbus coach John Tortorella said at the team's morning skate. "You have this window of games to not worry about what your numbers are but, try to help a team get [into the playoffs. That's our total focus here. For each player, that's what it should be. 'Alright, this is my opportunity to help a team try to find a way to get another win.'"
Jeff Zatkoff, called up Tuesday morning from the Cleveland Monsters on an emergency recall, will handle the backup duties for the Blue Jackets - who are clinging to the second wild card in the Eastern Conference by a point over the Florida Panthers and two points over the Carolina Hurricanes.
If Columbus is going to win, the Jackets need Korpisalo to come up with a solid performance against one of the highest-scoring teams in the league.
"With 16 [games] left, it gets shorter and shorter," Tortorella said. "As I've always felt when we've entered this stage of the season, it's a great challenge and a great opportunity all wrapped in one."
The Golden Knights are coming off a 3-2 victory Sunday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, which ended a three-game winless skid. They'll again look to overwhelm the Blue Jackets, similar to the way they did in winning the first game Jan. 23 at T-Mobile Arena.
Columbus remembers the sting of that 6-3 loss and would like to draw even against the Golden Knights after salvaging a three-game road trip Sunday with a 4-2 victory against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center. That victory moved them back into the East's second wild card with 71 points.
That's only three points behind the New Jersey Devils, who occupy the East's first wild card. The Panthers (70 points) and Hurricanes (69 points) are each within two points, and Florida has played three less games.
The Blue Jackets are hoping to start a winning streak that lasts longer than three games since their six-game winning streak in November. A victory against one of the league's top teams could be a nice springboard.
2017-18 Season: (0-1-0). This is the finale of the two-game season series. The Golden Knight won the first game, 6-3, on Jan. 23 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
All-time (W-L-T-O): 0-1-0-0 overall; 0-0-0-0 in Columbus
Golden Knights: Jonathan Marchessault had a five-game point streak end against the Devils, but the former Blue Jackets' forward is red hot of late. He had seven points (one goal, six assists) in the streak and has points in 10 of the past 15 games for Vegas.
Blue Jackets: Artemi Panarin scored two goals against the Sharks on Sunday for his 19th and 20th goals of the season. Panarin has recorded at least a point in seven of the past eight games and has nine points (five goals, four assists) in that span.
EYES ON: THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS
- Forward Reilly Smith had a five-game point streak come to an end against the Devils on Sunday. Smith, who's playing right wing on the Golden Knights' top line with James Neal out, had nine points (three goals, six assists) during the streak. Smith, who's two goals away from 100 for his NHL career, also has points in 14 of the past 17 games for Vegas. He's compiled 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in that stretch. Smith, whom the Golden Knights got from the Florida Panthers in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, is one of two players with at least 60 points for Vegas. Smith has 60 points (22 goals, 38 assists) and Marchessault, who plays left wing on the top line, has 65 (22 goals, 43 assists). The center of that line, former Blue Jacket William Karlsson, has 59 points (35 goals, 24 assists) and leads the NHL in goals. Forward David Perron, who had a goal and assist against New Jersey, also has 59 points (16 goals, 43 assists).
- Tomas Tatar scored the game-winner for the Golden Knights on Sunday in New Jersey, which was his first goal with Vegas. It was also the first point as a Golden Knight for Tatar, a talented forward who was the biggest addition at the NHL Trade Deadline for Vegas. They sent three high draft picks to the Detroit Red Wings to acquire him, including a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, plus a second-round pick next year and a third-rounder in 2021. Tatar only played 11:56 on 16 shifts against the Devils, after playing 15:25 in the Golden Knights' 5-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Friday. Prior to the trade, he had 28 points (16 goals, 12 assists) in 62 games with the Red Wings.
- This will be the second game in a five-game road trip for the Golden Knights, who will also play the Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres before concluding it Mar. 12 against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells-Fargo Center. … Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is having a career-best season despite missing 25 games with an injury. Fleury has a 2.24 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, which are both career-best numbers. He also has a career-high .697 quality-start percentage, according to hockey-reference.com. Fleury is three wins shy of 400 in his career, which would make him the 13th goalie in NHL history to record that many victories. … Vegas has three guys named "Tomas" in their starting lineup, including two on the same line. Tatar was added to Tomas Hyka and Tomas Nosek, who comprised two-thirds of the Golden Knights' fourth line against the Devils.
EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS
- The experiment with rookie Sonny Milano and second-year forward Oliver Bjorkstrand flanking captain Nick Foligno as the Blue Jackets' second line worked out great in San Jose. Initially put together in a loss Friday to the Anaheim Ducks, the trio stayed together against the Sharks. Foligno, who started the season at center and eventually moved to right wing, is back in the middle and now surrounded by two eager young forwards who are good skaters. Milano scored his third goal in four games since returning from an oblique tear last Monday against the Washington Capitals and Bjorkstrand assisted on it. Foligno also scored against the Sharks for his 14th goal of the season. "They're just so talented and create so much," Foligno said of his new linemates. "I'm learning a lot from them too, and I hope they're learning from me, with some of the things we need to do to manage games. But, man, if they continue to play with that kind of confidence and I can help them in that regard, hopefully we can be a dangerous line."
- The Blue Jackets flew home Monday and didn't practice. They will hold a morning skate Tuesday at Nationwide Arena, prior to playing the first game in a season-long, four-game homestand. After Vegas pays them a visit, the Jackets will host the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings in back-to-back games Thursday and Friday. The homestand will conclude Monday against the Montreal Canadiens. Columbus plays seven of its next 10 games at Nationwide Arena before ending the month with another three-game road trip to Western Canada.
- Mark Letestu is approaching a couple of milestones, for both the Blue Jackets and in his NHL career overall. Lestestu is one point away from 100 while playing for Columbus and needs seven goals to reach the 100-goal plateau in his career overall. Letestu is the sixth player in franchise history to spent two stints with the Blue Jackets, joining Jamie Pushor, Geoff Sanderson, Derrick Walser, Anders Eriksson and Aaron Johnson. … The Blue Jackets scored the first goal in their victory against the Sharks, which upped their record since last season to 58-20-9, a .667 winning percentage. … Columbus had held opponents to two goals or less in 28 of its 33 victories this season (85 percent).
"It's always special to go back to where you played. I had two great years here, so it's going to be a special night for me." - Golden Knights center William Karlsson, who began his NHL career with the Blue Jackets
"I think it's almost better he wasn't prepared to play tonight. He can just go in there open-minded and just play his game. We haven't played great in front of him the last couple games that he's played, so hopefully we can go out there and play better for him." - Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski on Korpisalo
Jonathan Marchessault - William Karlsson - Reilly Smith
David Perron - Erik Haula - Tomas Tatar
Ryan Carpenter - Cody Eakin - Alex Tuch
Tomas Hyka - Tomas Nosek - Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb - Colin Miller
Shea Theodore - Deryk Engelland
Jon Merrill - Brad Hunt
Others: Nate Schmidt (undisclosed), James Neal (hand), Oscar Lindberg (upper body), Luca Sbisa (undisclosed)
Injured Reserve: Will Carrier (upper body), Malcolm Subban (upper body), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (hand)
Long-Term IR: David Clarkson (back), Mikhail Grabovski (concussion), Clayton Stoner (abdominal)
Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Sonny Milano - Nick Foligno - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Boone Jenner - Alexander Wennberg - Thomas Vanek
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Mark Letestu
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Jack Johnson - Ryan Murray
Ian Cole - David Savard
Others: Scott Harrington, Taylor Chorney, Lukas Sedlak, Markus Hannikainen, Josh Anderson (knee)
Injured reserve: Dean Kukan (upper body), Markus Nutivaara (upper body)