Here we go again! The Blue Jackets and Hurricanes meet for the second straight game after Carolina defeated the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena. The Hurricanes look to extend their winning streak to a season-long four games, while the Jackets hope to halt their losing streak at six.
The Hurricanes have found a spark after a challenging start to the season in which they were 0-6-2. Now with three straight wins over the Coyotes, Kings, and Blue Jackets, it’s a team feeling much better about its place in the standings. That would be seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, after Tuesday’s win bumped them past Columbus.
While Carolina comes in riding high, the Blue Jackets were thoroughly disappointed in their showing Tuesday, with many of the players and coach Todd Richards calling it a step backwards from the team’s improvements made against New Jersey on Saturday. They will be without defenseman Jack Johnson, who was suspended for his hit on Jiri Tlusty on Tuesday. James Wisniewski, out with a broken finger since the Oct. 28 loss to Ottawa, is expected to return to the lineup.
The Blue Jackets visited Raleigh on Mar. 29 of last season and escaped PNC Arena with a 3-2 overtime win. Ryan Johansen’s overtime wrister dribbled through Khudobin at 2:40 of overtime to seal the victory. Artem Anisimov had a goal and an assist in the win, and Matt Calvert had the other goal for Columbus. Curtis McElhinney outdueled Khudobin with 25 saves.
The Blue Jackets were 3-1 against the Hurricanes last season, and 1-1 at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets are 1-1 against the Metropolitan Division this season after Saturday night’s loss to the Devils.
Put him on the wing, at center, or even the point on the power play, and Nick Foligno will still produce. Foligno has three goals and an assist in his last two games after returning from injury, and he has points in eight of 11 games this season (6-7-13). Foligno was one of few players that Richards seemed somewhat content with on Tuesday night, beyond the two goals he scored. Foligno played with a purpose and showed leadership intangibles on a night when the Blue Jackets were otherwise quite sluggish and off their game. He’s playing with a chip on his shoulder, and it’s showing up in the box score.
Cam Ward wasn’t tested much on Tuesday night, but he made the saves he needed to make and left very few second-chance opportunities. He’s now won three straight starts for the Hurricanes, including a shutout in Arizona. In all, Ward hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of his last three starts. Ward has a history of postseason success (and a Stanley Cup ring) and has won 30 games in a season five times. Ward hasn’t been a sure-fire No. 1 goaltender in recent years, though, and injury troubles contributed to the public mindset that Anton Khudobin was ready to push him out of a starting role in Raleigh. But Ward is still only 30 years old, is a competitor, and has given Carolina a chance to win so far this season.
The Jackets vs. Carolina’s No. 1 line
Jack Johnson will not be in the lineup against the Hurricanes Friday night, and that means someone is going to need to eat up his team-leading 24 minutes of ice-time per night, usually against top competition. That’s going to put a lot more stress on defensive partner Fedor Tyutin, which the return of Wisniewski can only alleviate to a point. With a young and inexperienced defense corps, figure Richards to have little choice but to heap heavy minutes on Fedor Tyutin and David Savard, with at least one of them having expanded short-handed ice time as well. Against Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty’s quick-strike abilities, that could be a recipe for trouble for Columbus.