The bye week is over for the Blue Jackets (37-16-5) and the final push to the post season begins Saturday against another Metro Division team, the New York Islanders (29-21-10). Both teams are in the playoff conversation and looking for key points to help their positioning in the standings.
After five days off from hockey, the Jackets will be looking to buck the trend of teams coming off their bye weeks. Of the 20 teams who've had their mid-season break, just four have been able to win their first game back, and only four more have earned at least a point (4-12-4).
USA HOCKEY NIGHT
There's little wiggle room for the Jackets to find their way back to their game. They face a final 24-game regular season stretch that includes 14 games on the road, 13 Divisional matchups, and six back-to-backs.
The Islanders come to Columbus two games into a nine-game road trip. They are 9-13-4 on the road this season. The Jackets are 21-9-1 on home ice.
MATT CALVERT SIDELINED
Here are five things to watch for:
Seth Jones and Zach Werenski have been the best two defensemen for the Jackets this season when it comes to driving offense with a 5-on-5 shot attempt for percentage of 53.3% and 54.1% respectively. The two have also been all over the score sheets of late. Werenski has five points (1-4-5) in his last three games, and Jones had nine points (3-6-9) in the ten games between the All-Star game and the bye week.
Going into the bye week, the Jackets were fortunate to get Scott Hartnell back in the lineup after he sustained a lower body injury against the Rangers and missed two games. But the team is now without center Lukas Sedlak, who left the Feb. 17 game against Pittsburgh, and Matt Calvert, who sustained an oblique injury on Feb. 19 against Nashville. In response, the Jackets have called up Markus Hannikainen.
ROSTER MOVES: February 24
Oliver Bjorkstrand has been making the most of his recent three-game stint with the Blue Jackets. He has two goals and has received positive reviews from head coach John Tortorella. "He's all over the offensive stats as far as chances. The thing I like about what he's doing is he's battling," Tortorella said.
John Tavares comes into Saturday's games with 16 points in his last 15 games. He has 16 points in his last 15 games (4-12-16). This season, in two previous matchups, the Islanders' captain has one goal and two assists against the Jackets, and is 9-12-21 in 17 games against them.
Opportunities on the power play.
The Jackets' power play has been searching for their potency of earlier this season. Through the nine games the team played in February, they converted just one of their 20 chances. Saturday may provide an opportunity to get back on track as the Isles' have recently been without two key penalty killers. Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck both missed Thursday's game after leaving the Feb. 21 game. Cizikas has been placed on injured reserve.
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PROJECTED CBJ LINEUP:
Foligno - Wennberg - Bjorkstrand
Jenner - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Hannikainen - Karlsson - Anderson
Saad - Gagner - Hartnell
Werenski - Jones
Johnson - Savard
Murray - Nutivaara