GAME 66: BLUE JACKETS VS. SABRES
NATIONWIDE ARENA, 7:00 P.M.
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO / FOX SPORTS GO
RADIO: 97.1 & BLUEJACKETS.COM
If you're following the Blue Jackets, you know how tough the Metro Division is. Buffalo comes to Nationwide Arena Friday to face their third Metro opponent in a row in the first game of a back-to-back home and home series between the Jackets and the Sabres.
Friday is the first time these two teams will have met all season, and when the puck drops, it means the Jackets have finally faced off against all 29 other NHL teams.
Buffalo (27-28-12) comes to town having lost their last three games, including their last two to Metro members, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
The Sabres may be struggling to find wins at the moment, but Jack Eichel continues to produce offense for Buffalo. He's on a career long 11-game point streak (5-10-15), which is currently the longest in the NHL. His two goals against the Flyers on Tuesday put him over 100 career points (42-59-101) in just 127 career games.
On the home bench, the Jackets (42-17-6) are riding a 5-1-1 record since the bye week, and have four shutouts, including three consecutive shutout performances by Sergei Bobrovsky.
Here are five things to watch for:
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One for the record books?
The next time the Jackets win a game, it will be the 43rd of the year and will tie a franchise record for wins in a season (2013-14). The next time the Jackets win at home it will be the 25th time they've done that this season and that too ties a franchise record for home wins (2008-09).
Video: NJD@CBJ: Bjorkstrand roofs a wrister from his knees
Oliver Bjorkstrand re-joined the Jackets from the Cleveland Monsters Feb. 15 and has proven to be an integral part of the team since. In a league where many teams will talk about their "top six," with Bjorkstrand playing with Sam Gagner and Scott Hartnell, Jackets head coach John Tortorella says he has three strong offensive lines. "(Gagner's line) was the most consistent line in the last two games against New Jersey," Tortorella said.
More forward flexibility.
Even with the performance of Hartnell-Gagner-Bjorkstrand, Tortorella has been able to play with his lines if he feels it's necessary. The most common change we've seen of late is swapping Saad and Bjorkstrand for a few shifts here and there in recent games. Tortorella praised Saad's ability to play on the left or right side as the key to having such a degree of flexibility among his forward group.
Video: CBJ@NJD: Gagner crashes the net, buries a rebound
All season the Jackets have talked about the need for defensive depth through the season, knowing that the blue line would be tested through 82 games. Ryan Murray, who did not play Tuesday against New Jersey (lower body), did not practice Thursday, but the Jackets, per design, have their pick of seven healthy defenseman they can put into the lineup in the event Murray cannot play against Buffalo.
When the Jackets play the Sabres, it's always an opportunity to see captain Nick Foligno play against his brother, Marcus. Now in his fifth season with Buffalo, the younger Foligno has played in all 67 games for Buffalo this year and has 12 goals and eight assists.
PROJECTED CBJ LINEUP: