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Bjorkstrand, Dubois coming into their own for Blue Jackets

Addition of Foligno has given Columbus a line that drives possession

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

When asked about playing with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Pierre-Luc Dubois over the past eight games, Nick Foligno started to launch into praise for the play of his young linemates. 

"We enjoy playing together," Foligno said. "I think we all bring a little bit of something different. Obviously Bjorky is the shooter and Luc can do it all." 

A reporter couldn't help but interject. What does Foligno add to the table? 

"I do everything," he said with a laugh. 

Through the past eight games, the same could be said of the line. In almost 90 minutes of 5-on-5 play when all three have been on the ice together, the Blue Jackets have scored eight goals and not allowed any. The line also has a pronounced advantage in expected goals (4.2-2.2), scoring chances (47-34) and high-danger chances (20-9). 

While the Blue Jackets have hit a bit of a scoring skid over the past four games, that line has shown the ability to create offense by excellent forechecking, winning board battles and then letting the skill take over from there.  

Video: TBL@CBJ: Bjorkstrand dekes out McElhinney on break

"I think we have three different games," Dubois said. "We play the game three different ways, I guess. We play to our strengths and every guy does what he does well. I think that's why the line is playing really good right now." 

For Dubois, the strength his obvious, and it's his strength. He's been tabbed moose-like for a reason, as at 6-foot-3 and around 220 pounds, his ability to take pucks from opposing players and then hold on to them is as good as any in the National Hockey League. Dubois' ability to put the puck in the net also can't be undersold, as the Quebec native is one of the top young scorers in the NHL, boasting 17 goals and 43 points this season as well as 25 points in his last 26 games. 

Bjorkstrand's shot, meanwhile, is one of the most notable in the NHL, as he has a quick, deceptive release and the ability to surprise goaltenders with the placement and speed of his shot, one reason he has 11 goals in his last 12 games and a CBJ-best 18 this year. But where Tortorella has been impressed is in Bjorkstrand's ability to fight for pucks and win wall battles, which has allowed him to create more space to make offensive plays happen. 

To Foligno, the two -- one a 21-year-old top draft pick and the other a 24-year-old who is coming into his own -- are becoming elite, first-line, point-per-game players. 

"They are, and they have to," Foligno said. "That's the age they're at. I know Luc is young, but he's been in the league a little while and this is what he's capable of. I think it's really fun to see them play at a consistent level like that and become those elite players that our team envisioned and our team needed. It's really fun. I'm really happy for them.  

"I think the hard work is there. I think Bjorky has learned that in the past year probably what kind of player he needs to be to have success, and it's that greasy, hard, forechecking guy. Then all of a sudden now he gets his chances in the slot or around the net. And then Luc is a beast and he plays like a beast. There's not a lot of guys who can play in the league against him." 

Video: CBJ@MTL: Dubois nets his second on wraparound

Dubois and Bjorkstrand have been a solid pair throughout the year when grouped on a line together, including earlier this year when playing with Gus Nyquist. For the whole season, when the two are on the ice, the Blue Jackets have an expected goals share of 64.6 percent at 5-on-5.  

To head coach John Tortorella, though, adding Foligno to the mix over the last handful of games has helped both the youngsters continue to come along while also adding something to the captain's game. 

"NIck has had an inconsistent year," Tortorella said. "Since we've put him with Luc and Bjorky, I think he's helped his game and I think he's helped their game because Nick was kind of in between in my mind where he was within our lineup. We put him there and I think he has grabbed a hold of that position, left wing on that line, and has played very well." 

Of course, in Tortorella's world, lines don't often last forever, and with the team's recent scoring slump - despite excellent underlying numbers - a change could always be in the offing. But the Blue Jackets have discovered a line that has the confidence to score every time it's on the ice. 

"I think that's the feeling we have," Bjorkstrand said. "When we step on the ice, we want to score, and I think that's what we're trying to show. Overall, I think we're just helping each other out and just clicking." 

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