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Preview: Blue Jackets seek home-and-home split with Devils

Columbus motivated to raise level of play from loss in first game.

by Brian Hedger JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

GAME 29: BLUE JACKETS (17-10-1) AT DEVILS (16-7-4)

PRUDENTIAL CENTER, 7 P.M., TUESDAY

TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO/FOX SPORTS GO

RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM

The second time around for the Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils has almost the same storyline as the first, which the Devils won, 4-1, on Tuesday at Nationwide Arena.

The only difference is this time Columbus sits in second place of the Metropolitan Division, one point behind New Jersey. That was flipped around Tuesday, when the Devils went 6-for-6 killing penalties and scored twice in the second period of a 1-1 game to take the opener of the season series.

The loss did not sit well with the Blue Jackets, who are looking to atone after dropping their second straight game.

"Going back and watching my shifts, and watching the game as a whole, it's kind of embarrassing," defenseman Zach Werenski said Thursday. "That's the first time I actually felt embarrassed towards the end of a game in a while."

The Blue Jackets, who've lost their past two games, put 42 shots on goal against New Jersey but were kept to the outside of the ice. They're looking to change that Friday night, in order to make Devils goalie Cory Schneider work harder.

"We're at the top of the Metro going into that game, with [New Jersey] the team behind us, and we play like that," Werenski said. "It's just unacceptable. I would've expected a lot more from our team, from myself, from everybody, but the best part is ... we get to play them again [Friday]."

Speaking of the division, things have only gotten tighter.

Only three points separate first from sixth in the Metro, and four teams have 35 points following Thursday night's games: the Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Metro also holds both wild cards into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Eastern Conference, with the Capitals and Penguins currently occupying those spots.

It's still early in the regular season, but the division could be like this the rest of the way. Wins and points will be even greater in importance than usual, especially in head-to-head meetings between division opponents, like this one.

SERIES RECORD

2017-18 Season: (0-1-0). This is the second of four games. The Blue Jackets will face the Devils twice more, hosting New Jersey again Feb. 10 and playing Feb. 20 at Prudential Center.

All-time: 15-13-2 overall; 9-7-0 at Nationwide Arena

SERIES SNAPSHOT

First game: The Blue Jackets outshot the Devils 42-36, but didn't attack the high-danger areas enough. They also had some difficulty containing New Jersey's speed during counterattacks and breakouts, which led to New Jersey's last three goals.

The Devils also won the battle of top lines, as left wing Taylor Hall (one goal, one assist), rookie center Nico Hischier (two assists) and rookie right wing Jesper Bratt (one goal, one assist) each had two points. Schenider was solid in net, making 41 saves. Captain Nick Foligno scored the goal for Columbus.

WHO'S HOT

Devils: Hall has eight points (three goals, five assists) in the past six games, including his goal and assist against the Blue Jackets.

Blue Jackets: Rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois has six points (one goal, five assists) in the past five games. Werenski has three points (two goals, one assist) in the past four games, and had a season-high 10 shots on goal Tuesday.

EYES ON: THE BLUE JACKETS

  • The Devils did a good job defending the Blue Jackets' top line of Artemi Panarin, Dubois and Josh Anderson. Entering Tuesday, they'd combined for 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in their prior six games together. They didn't have a point against the Devils, and had a combined minus-5 plus/minus rating. All four of New Jersey's lines and all three defense pairings drew shifts against the Jackets' top forward group.

 

  • Werenski missed practice Wednesday for a maintenance day, but got back on the ice Thursday. The Blue Jackets are down two defensemen, as the usual third pairing of Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara are both day-to-day with upper-body injuries. Murray, who's on injured reserve, has missed four games. Nutivaara has missed the past two. Scott Harrington has played four straight games in place of Murray, while Gabriel Carlsson has played the past two in Nutivaara's spot at the right point. If Nutivaara is cleared medically, coach John Tortorella said he will play. It's not known which defensemen would come out.

 

  • The Jackets' special teams continue to be an interesting, and frustrating, dichotomy of opposites. They're 2-for-42 in the past 15 games on the power play, after going 1-for-13 in their last two homes games, and they're now 7-for-81 overall (8.6 percent), which ranks 31st - including an 0-for-6 against the Devils. Conversely, Columbus has been outstanding killing penalties. The Jackets have thwarted 26 of 28 in the past 13 games (92.8 percent), since allowing three power-play goals in the third period of a 5-3 loss Nov. 6 at the New York Rangers.

EYES ON: THE DEVILS

  • New Jersey's victory Tuesday bumped their road record to an impressive 10-3-2 mark away from Prudential Center. They've been much less impressive on home ice, going 6-4-2 in their first 12 home games.

 

  • Devils coach John Hynes added Stefan Noesen to the second line Tuesday, with Marcus Johansson and center Travis Zajac, and they clicked right away. They gave Columbus trouble most of the game and scored two goals. Zajac opened the scoring at 4:24 of the first period, and Noesen gave New Jersey a two-goal cushion, 3-1, with 45.1 seconds left in the second. The Jackets' top line was on the ice for both goals.

 

  • Despite the Blue Jackets' struggles on the power play, the Devils will be looking to take less penalties in the rematch. Four of the six penalties they took in the first game were stick violations, including two hooking calls and a slash by Brian Gibbons with less than a minute left. Two of their four penalties were in the final two minutes of the game, leading by three goals, but the first four happened when the game was still in doubt.

QUOTABLES

"I think we have played some good hockey, especially the past five or six games, other than the one we lost the other night [to New Jersey]. We are putting in some good numbers. We get our five-game reports, we are really on the upswing, but my problem is ... we're living off of some inexperienced kids really carrying the load here. Is it that [veteran] group that just thinks we're going to be able to turn it on? I hope not. I don't think so. I think they're smart enough, and I think they're respectful enough of this league, but if we go down that road, that is very dangerous." - Tortorella

"We just didn't play hard enough after the first 15 minutes of the game, when I thought we played really well, It was just their game. They ran away with it. They took over, and just did what they wanted to do. We had [42] shots, but none of them were net-front. [Schneider] saw everything. You're not going to win if the goalie, especially of that caliber, can see every shot. It hasn't been good lately." - Werenski on the first game against the Devils

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLUE JACKETS

Forwards

Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Josh Anderson

Nick Foligno - Alexander Wennberg - Cam Atkinson

Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Boone Jenner - Lukas Sedlak - Tyler Motte

Defensemen

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Scott Harrington - Gabriel Carlsson

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

Others: Markus Nutivaara (upper body), Markus Hannikainen

Injured reserve: Ryan Murray (upper body)

 

DEVILS

Forwards

Taylor Hall - Nico Hischier - Jesper Bratt

Marcus Johansson - Travis Zajac - Stefan Noesen

Brian Gibbons - Blake Coleman - Drew Stafford

Miles Wood - Brian Boyle - Pavel Zacha

Defensemen

Andy Greene - Sami Vatanen

John Moore - Damon Severson

Will Butcher - Ben Lovejoy

Goaltenders

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

Others: Dalton Prout, Steven Santini, Jimmy Hayes

Injured reserve: Kyle Palmieri (right foot fracture), Mirco Mueller (fractured clavicle)

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