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Preview: Blue Jackets searching for higher gear in the 'Motor City'

Columbus makes its first visit to Detroit's Little Caesar's Arena hoping to continue recent success against the Red Wings.

by Brian Hedger JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

GAME 17: BLUE JACKETS (9-7-1) AT RED WINGS (8-8-1)

LITTLE CAESAR'S ARENA, 7 P.M., SATURDAY

TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO/FOX SPORTS GO

RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM

They haven't won in more than a week, but the Blue Jackets are trying to keep a level head about their current four-game winless skid (0-3-1).

After falling to the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-1, at Nationwide Arena on Friday, coach John Tortorella said it's good the next game is so soon, Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesar's Arena.

"We've got to find a way to pull out [of it]," Tortorella said of the losing skid. "We have a pretty quick opportunity coming up on the back-to-back. You just can't get into a panic mode. Our number one thing is we've got to figure out our starts and make a team play a [200-foot game]."

Starts have been an issue for most of the season to date.

Despite taking an early 1-0 lead in the first period, the Blue Jackets were outplayed in the first 30 minutes of the game. Columbus steadily began to win more puck battles and control possession time from the midpoint of the second, but just couldn't beat goalie Cam Ward (25 saves).

Dubinsky scored the Blue Jackets' lone goal in the game, but he and Cam Atkinson were unable to tie the game on great scoring chances in the third - when Columbus trailed, 2-1. They weren't the only ones unable to convert good scoring opportunities into goals for the Blue Jackets, who've scored just two goals in their past two games, both 3-1 losses at Nationwide Arena.

The hope is that getting away from the comforts of home will help the Blue Jackets take a more simplistic approach. The Jackets are also 13-3-2 in their past 18 games against Detroit, and swept the season series last year (3-0-0) for the first time. 

"I think it's easier on the road to make a team play a 200-foot game," Tortorella said. "We need to get some guys untracked. [Atkinson] had a number of opportunities [Friday], game in hand, and hasn't found his way. [Artemi] Panarin hasn't found his way. [Alexander Wennberg] hasn't found his way. So, we've just got to help them get through it and try to get some guys going, and not just rely on secondary scoring."

That secondary scoring was the backbone to the Blue Jackets setting a new franchise record through their first 14 games, going 9-4-1 (19 points) to surpass the previous high of 18 points - most recently reached last season (8-4-2).

Most of their top scorers up front are off to slow starts.

"We have four or five really good opportunities in that third period [against Carolina], with the right people with the puck on their sticks and we don't get it done," Tortorella said. "So, no matter how bad we were [early in the game], we still have a chance to win it and we just don't find a way in the third."

SERIES RECORD

2017-18 Season: (0-0-0). This is the first of three games this season. The Blue Jackets will host the Red Wings on Mar. 9 and April 3.

All-time: 31-42-13 overall; 13-24-5 in Detroit

"BY THE NUMBERS"

  • 3: Winning streak for the Blue Jackets against the Red Wings, since Dec. 9, 2016.
  • 4: Players on each team with double-digit point totals.
  • 13: Consecutive unsuccessful power plays for Columbus over the past four games.
  • 50: Points for Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg in 65 games against the Blue Jackets in his career (18 goals).

EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS

  • The starting goalie for Columbus won't be announced until shortly game time, when Tortorella meets with the media, but this could potentially be a spot where Sergei Bobrovsky starts both ends of a back-to-back. Bobrovsky took the loss Friday against the Hurricanes, but made 26 saves and held the Blue Jackets in the game during the first period. He also got a night off Tuesday against Nashville, when Joonas Korpisalo made his fourth start of the season.
  • The past couple of games, the Blue Jackets have deployed defenseman Zach Werenski as the right wing on the top power-play unit, which means defense partner Seth Jones is manning his former spot as the unit's quarterback at the point in a 1-3-1 setup. Tortorella said Jones is good at getting pucks to the net from that spot, while playing the right side helps Werenski get more shots off from closer range.
  • Zac Dalpe is still day-to-day with an upper-body injury and has missed two games. Without him, Tortorella has gone with seven defensemen and 11 forwards.
  • The Blue Jackets have killed off 23 of 25 opposing power plays at home. That is a 92 percent success rate, which ranks fourth in the NHL. They've allowed seven power-play goals in 21 times shorthanded on the road (66.7 percent), which is ranked 31st.

EYES ON: THE RED WINGS

  • Detroit is expected to start Jimmy Howard in net, after Petr Mrazek allowed five goals in a 6-3 loss Thursday on the road against the Calgary Flames. Howard is 3-1-0 in his past four starts, and hasn't allowed more than three goals in a game since Oct. 22 against the Vancouver Canucks (six games).
  • The Red Wings played 12 of their first 17 games on the road, away from their new arena. They will play 13 of their next 15 games at Little Caesar's Arena.
  • Zetterberg had seven points (three goals, four assists) in Detroit's first five games. He has one goal and three assists the last 12 contests.
  • Andreas Athanasiou, who missed the preseason and first 10 games over a contract dispute, has a goal and assist in seven games after reaching agreement on a new contract. He's centering the Red Wings' fourth line.

QUOTABLES

"We've just got to take a long look in the mirror at what type of team we are, and how we're successful and how we're built. It's not by trying to be fancy and making plays, and trying to be run and gun. It's about getting pucks beneath the other team's hash marks and winning battles. We're not doing enough of that right now, and the results are speaking for themselves." - Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky, following a 3-1 loss Friday against the Carolina Hurricanes

"We've just got to continue to work, learn from it and get to our game early in the first period, especially on the road [Saturday] night." - Blue Jackets forward Tyler Motte, on a 3-1 loss Friday to the Carolina Hurricanes

"It's a great thing for the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan to have a new facility that brought in a basketball team, as well. It's great for the city. It will bring some more money and people down there. I know it's had its rough patches, but it's turning around and it's good to have." - Motte, on the Red Wings' new arena.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUE JACKETS

Forward lines (11)

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Artemi Panarin - Alexander Wennberg - Nick Foligno

Tyler Motte - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Josh Anderson

Markus Hannikainen - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Defense pairings (7)

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara

Gabriel Carlsson

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

or

Joonas Korpisalo

Out: Scott Harrington, Zac Dalpe (upper body)

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

Lineup notes: Tortorella has gone with seven defensemen and 11 forwards the past two games, and could do so again.

RED WINGS

Forward lines (12)

Anthony Mantha - Henrik Zetterberg - Gustav Nyquist

Tomas Tatar - Dylan Larkin - Justin Abdelkader

Darren Helm - Frans Nielsen - Luke Glendening

Scott Wilson - Andreas Athanasiou - Martin Frk

Defense pairings (6)

Jonathan Ericsson - Trevor Daley

Xavier Ouellet - Mike Green

Niklas Kronwall - Nick Jensen

Goaltenders

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

Out: David Booth, Luke Witkowski, Dan DeKeyser (lower body)

Injured reserve: None

LTIR: Johan Franzen (concussion)

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