GAME 69: RED WINGS (26-30-11) AT BLUE JACKETS (35-28-5)
Location: Nationwide Arena, 7 P.M., Friday
TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go (Jeff Rimer, Jody Shelley)
Radio: 97.1 FM & BlueJackets.com (Bob McElligott)
There are still two teams hot on their trail, but the Blue Jackets are starting to target what's ahead of them after winning three straight games.
Their 5-4 overtime victory Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche, a come-from-behind win, moved Columbus to 75 points and within one point of the New Jersey Devils (76 points) for the first wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Blue Jackets, who hold the East's second wild-card spot, are also within four points of the Philadelphia Flyers (79 points) for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Neither team plays Friday, so the Blue Jackets can pass New Jersey and pull within two points of Philadelphia with a victory against Detroit.
"We've got to stop looking at who's behind us and start looking at who's in front of us, trying to catch them," said defenseman Zach Werenski, who had a goal and assist against Colorado. "We're playing some good hockey right now and we're not that far off the teams in front of us, so hopefully we can catch one."
It will help if the offense keeps scoring the way it has the past three games.
The Blue Jackets have scored four-or-more goals in each, which is the first time all season they've scored that many in three consecutive games. After struggling to score goals most of the season, Columbus is starting to find the back of the net at a great time of the year.
There are only 14 games left on the Jackets' regular-season schedule and only four of their remaining opponents are currently holding playoff spots. The Devils, meanwhile, play 10 of their final 14 games against teams in playoff position and the Flyers play seven in their final 14 games.
The next two games for Columbus are against teams that aren't even close to playoff contention, beginning with the Red Wings to conclude the Jackets' 16th of 17 back-to-backs this season.
"That's a huge win for us, just to keep it going here a little bit and trying to gain our confidence," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said Thursday, after Seth Jones scored 59 seconds into overtime. "We held in there, we get a little bit of balance within our lineup, as far as some result scoring. Celebrate it for a few minutes and then we've got another one [Friday], another fast team coming in here tomorrow in Detroit."
2017-18 Season: (1-0-0). This is second game of three this season, with the Blue Jackets seeking to take the series after winning, 2-1, in a nine-round shootout Nov. 11 at Little Caesar's Arena. That was the first win in a season-high, six-game winning streak for Columbus (Nov. 11-24).
All-time (W-L-T-O): 32-42-1-12 overall; 18-18-1-7 at Nationwide Arena
Red Wings: Anthony Mantha has five points (three goals, two assists) in the past four games, including four points (two goals, two assists) Tuesday against the Boston Bruins.
Blue Jackets: Werenski has scored a goal in the past two games and three times in the past four. He had a goal and assist against the Avalanche on Thursday and has six points (three goals, three assists) in the past five games.
EYES ON: THE RED WINGS
- Detroit is winless in its past five games (0-4-1) after losing 4-0 at home to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday. The Red Wings have yet to win a game in March and are in the midst of their toughest portion of the schedule. The game against Vegas was the lone home game for Detroit that separates two five-game road trips. Detroit went 1-3-1 during the first one and will start the second one in Columbus.
- If goalie Jimmy Howard gets the nod in net, it will be his 10th straight start. His run of nine straight is the second-longest stint of consecutive games he's logged this season, next to 15 straight appearances Nov. 11 to Dec. 15. Howard is 2-5-2 in his current run, with a 2.61 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Howard has played in 25 career games against the Blue Jackets and holds a 12-6-4 record with a 1.88 GAA, .931 save percentage and three shutouts. If Howard doesn't start, it will be backup Jared Coreau, who's only played one game this season, allowing four goals on 20 shots in a loss.
- Rookie forward Evgeny Svechnikov made his season debut for the Red Wings on Thursday. Svechnikov, who was selected by the Red Wings 19th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft, played 9:09 and finished with a minus-2 plus/minus rating. He skated on a line with speedy center Andreas Athanasiou and Justin Abdelkader and could be right back in that spot against Columbus. Svechnikov was an emergency recall from the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League after veteran forward Frans Nielsen was sidelined with a concussion sustained by David Backes' illegal hit Tuesday against the Boston Bruins. Coach Jeff Blashill said the plan is to keep Svechnikov up with Detroit even after Nielsen returns.
EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS
- Sergei Bobrovsky could get back in net after missing the past two games. The Blue Jackets' top goalie was sick Tuesday and couldn't even back up Joonas Korpisalo, who started and earned a big win with 37 saves against Vegas. Bobrovsky was feeling well enough to participate in the morning skate Thursday at Nationwide Arena and handled the backup role rather than returning to the net. Korpisalo wasn't quite as sharp against the Avalanche, but made some key saves in the win. Bobrovsky has faced the Red Wings 16 times in his career, going 10-4-1 with a 1.85 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.
- Rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois moved another two points closer to the top of the franchise's all-time rookie scoring list. Dubois' two assists against Colorado, including the primary helper on Jones' game-winner in OT, gives him 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists) in 68 games. He's one point behind Jakub Voracek's 38 points in 2009, which is third in team history. Dubois is just two points back of Rick Nash's 39 points in 2003, which is second. Nash's point total is the highest among rookie forwards and was the most overall until last season, when Werenski set a new high with 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) in 78 games. Dubois' two assists gave him multi-point efforts in two straight games, which is just the second time he's done that.
- Columbus has won its past four games at Nationwide Arena and is now 21-11-2 on home ice. Conversely, the Blue Jackets are 14-17-3 on the road. … Columbus won for just the 11th time when the opponent scores the game's first goal, improving to 11-18-1 in that scenario. The Jackets are 24-10-4, logging 68.6 percent of their total wins when scoring the first goal. … Artemi Panarin had an assist against the Avalanche to extend his point streak to three games. He's had a point in nine of the past 10 games, totaling 13 points (six goals, seven assists) during that span. … Columbus has won 13 of its 18 games that have gone past regulation, leading the NHL with a 13-1-4 record in games that go to overtime. … Jones has eight points (three goals, five assists) in the past seven games. … The Blue Jackets have defeated the Red Wings in four straight games and hold a 14-3-2 record against them since Mar. 28, 2012.
Tyler Bertuzzi - Henrik Zetterberg - Gustav Nyquist
Martin Frk - Dylan Larkin - Anthony Mantha
Justin Abdelkader - Andreas Athanasiou - Evgeny Svechnikov
Luke Witkowski - Luke Glendening - Darren Helm
Jonathan Ericsson - Trevor Daley
Dan DeKeyser - Nick Jensen
Niklas Kronwall - Mike Green
Others: David Booth, Frans Nielsen (concussion), Xavier Ouellet
Injured Reserve: None
Long-Term IR: Johan Franzen (concussion)
Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Sonny Milano - Nick Foligno - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Boone Jenner - Alexander Wennberg - Thomas Vanek
Matt Calvert - Mark Letestu - Brandon Dubinsky
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)
Race to the Playoff Update