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Game Preview: Blue Jackets host Bruins seeking third straight win

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Sunday’s barnburner between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena was a timely microcosm of the battle both teams are in.

In the wake of the Florida Panthers’ rise to the top of the Atlantic Division, three teams have settled into a battle for the division’s other two guaranteed playoff spots: Detroit, Boston and the Tampa Bay Lightning are separated by only three points, with the struggling Montreal Canadiens sitting six points behind Tampa.

The Red Wings and Bruins locked horns in one of the more entertaining games of the season, a 6-5 affair that was won by Detroit – enabling them to leap frog the Bruins into second place in the division, only three points behind the Panthers.

So, needless to say, every game from here to the house is an important one for the Bruins, who enter Tuesday night’s game at Nationwide Arena needing two points in the worst way. This game against the Blue Jackets is their game-in-hand on the Red Wings, as both clubs will have played 57 games at the end of the night.

Detroit’s 57th game was a Presidents Day loss to the Islanders at Barclays Center, so the door is open for the Bruins if they can beat the suddenly-hot Blue Jackets, who are 8-1-2 in Joonas Korpisalo’s last 11 starts. Korpisalo is slated to start Tuesday against the Bruins, while recently-activated Curtis McElhinney will dress as the backup goaltender.

In late January, Blue Jackets associate coach Craig Hartsburg had to step behind the bench and assume head coaching duties while John Tortorella recovered from two broken ribs. The team’s first game under Hartsburg was in Boston against the Bruins, and it was one of their most solid team efforts of the season.

They did not get the result (dropping a 3-2 shootout loss at TD Garden) but played well in all facets, getting quality goaltending, timely penalty kills and bouncing back from a 2-0 deficit in the second period.

The game also marked the returns of Matt Calvert and Nick Foligno from injury, and both players provided a spark for the Blue Jackets in a tough environment.

It’s tough to find a player on a hotter streak than Brad Marchand is right now.

The 27-year-old agitator has goals in seven straight games (eight total in that span) and has vaulted to the Bruins’ goal-scoring lead with 28 in 51 games. For context, Marchand’s 28 goals in a little over a half-season so far in 2015-16 equal his career high set in 76 games back in 2011-12, which was only his second full season in the NHL.

While it’s common to find Marchand trying to get under the skin of his opponents, you can also find him down around the front of the net. Marchand’s five power play goals are third-most on the Bruins, trailing only Loui Eriksson (8) and Patrice Bergeron (9).

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