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Game Day Central: Blue Jackets at Lightning

by Staff / Columbus Blue Jackets

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FRIDAY, 7:30 P.M.


WATCH" David Savard 3rd period goal | CLICK TO WATCH

GAME AUDIO: David Savard Scores | LISTEN

SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: The second period began sloppy and ended sloppy, and as a result, the Jackets find themselves in a 3-1 hole after 40 minutes at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Two gooals from stay-at-home defenseman Eric Brewer (one of those nights, you could say) have the Bolts on top 3-1, despite the Jackets out-shooting Tampa by a 27-19 margin overall. Boone Jenner's 16th goal of the season tied the game midway through, but the Bolts struck back (pardon the pun, sorry, I had to) with a pair late in the frame and that's where we stand after two periods. Discipline and puck management were two things that got away from Columbus in the second period, and also, two things that must be a lot better in the third.

WATCH: Boone Jenner 1st period goal | CLICK TO WATCH

GAME AUDIO: Boone Jenner scores! | LISTEN

FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: A high-quality road period from the Blue Jackets there, especially after a fast start from Tampa. The Lightning are after home ice advantage in their first round series against Montreal, so this game means a lot for both sides when you factor in that the Jackets want to keep climbing the standings. Shots are 14-8 after one period in favor of Columbus, and they had some good looks at Lightning goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis, who's making his first NHL start tonight. At the other end, Curtis McElhinney played a strong frame for the Jackets, and was steady early on when the Lightning put on a push. 

Todd Richards' pre-game press conference at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

WATCH: Boone Jenner pre-game before the Jackets take on the Lightning.

WATCH: Ryan Murray chats with Bob McElligott pre-game in Tampa.

UPDATE (12:25 PM):
Tonight is FOX Sports Ohio Viewer Appreciation Night! Here's a sampling of what you can expect on tonight's broadcast...

- a chance to win team-signed items

- opportunities to win tickets

- tickets to the upcoming Bruce Springsteen (!) concert 

- and of course, much more...stay tuned!

UPDATE (12:20 PM):
Curtis McElhinney will get the start in net tonight for the Jackets.

The Blue Jackets flew out of Dallas on Thursday morning and arrived in Tampa earlier today, and they'll face the Lightning on Friday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. They are scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. morning skate, and we'll have complete coverage for you here at Game Day Central. Also, look for lineup changes, thoughts on the match-up against the Lightning, storylines from the other side and an interview with coach Todd Richards. Stay tuned to this page for the latest!

The Blue Jackets are still battling injuries up front and they make some changes to the lineup after clinching a playoff spot on Wednesday night in Dallas. For now, the plan is to use the same six defensemen as they did on Wednesday but there could be some adjustments made after the morning skate.

Richards said after the game in Dallas that he plans to use Curtis McElhinney in at least one of the final two regular season games. We should find out after Friday's morning skate which goaltender will get the start against the Lightning. 

This is no time for the Blue Jackets to rest on their laurels, and that was the discussion inside their locker room following a playoff-clinching win in Dallas.

Have they reached one of their goals? Yes. But that doesn't mean it's time for the Jackets to shut it down for the final two games of the regular season; they are aiming higher and want to collect as many points as possible before the playoff seedings and match-ups are determined on Sunday evening.

The next step is Friday's game against the Lightning, a team already in the Stanley Cup tournament but one that's in a battle to get home ice in its first-round series. Tampa is locked in to play the Montreal Canadiens in round one, but depending on this weekend's results, either team could secure home ice advantage for their opening round series. Coach Jon Cooper's team will have to do so without the services of goaltender Ben Bishop, who suffered an injury earlier this week and will be sidelined for the remainder of the regular season. 

Injuries have bitten the Lightning all season (namely Steven Stamkos missing extended time due to a broken leg) but they've never used them as an excuse. Tampa has been one of the most consistent teams in the Atlantic Division and at one time was neck-and-neck with the Boston Bruins for first place. Since the Bruins have separated themselves, it's been a closely-fought battle between Tampa and Montreal for the second and third spots in the Atlantic - and whoever gets spot No. 2 gets to start the playoffs at home.

Cooper said earlier this week that it's a motivating factor for his team as they finish out the regular season. And for the Blue Jackets, they still feel like they have some unfinished business even after securing their spot in the postseason.

No playoff match-ups aside from Montreal-Tampa are set, which means the Blue Jackets are looking at any one of four possible opponents in the first round. Boston, Pittsburgh, New York and Philadelphia are all mathmetically alive to be Columbus' first test, and depending on this weekend's results, the playoff picture could either look a lot like it currently does, or there could be significant movement up and down the standings.


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