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Game Preview: Blue Jackets, Hurricanes begin home-and-home set

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Two seasons ago, the Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes saw each other five times and developed a bustling little rivalry between them. This season, they had to wait until Jan. 8 to meet up, so naturally, they'll renew acquaintances with a back-to-back, home-and-home set this weekend.

It's been a busy week in Columbus, with the headlining news being Seth Jones' acquisition from Nashville and Ryan Johansen headed the other way in this season's biggest trade. Jones arrived in Columbus late Wednesday, practiced with the team on Thursday, and is expected to make his Blue Jackets debut on Friday at PNC Arena paired with Ryan Murray.

Sure, there's added intrigue with the addition of Jones to the back end, but the Blue Jackets are looking to bounce back from a tough loss to Minnesota on Tuesday, a game that came after back-to-back wins over the league's two best teams (Dallas and Washington).

Unlike their pair of wins last week in which they scored a combined 10 goals, the Blue Jackets struggled offensively against the Wild and couldn't sustain much pressure in the offensive zone.

They're facing a Hurricanes team on a bit of a skid, going 0-1-2 in their last three games and scoring only three total goals in that span. The goaltending has been solid whether it's Cam Ward or Eddie Lack between the pipes, but at the other end, Carolina's had some players going through dry spells of late.

On Mar. 15, 2015, the Hurricanes used a second period rally to beat the Blue Jackets and exorcise some demons in Nationwide Arena. Their 3-2 win was their third straight in Columbus after going 10 years (!) without a win in Ohio's capital city.

Nick Foligno opened the scoring with less than one second left in the first period, jamming a power play goal behind Anton Khudobin after a handful of earlier chances had gone for naught.

But Carolina countered with second period goals from Justin Faulk, Ron Hainsey and Brad Malone to take a 3-2 lead into the third period. Khudobin handled it from there, making 11 third period saves and holding off a late charge from the Blue Jackets.

The Hurricanes have themselves a terrific young defenseman in Justin Faulk, and he has taken a big step forward in 2015-16.

He currently leads the team in scoring with 14 goals and 30 points in 41 games - an impressive total for any player on the club, let alone one whose primary responsibility is shutting down the opposition. Faulk, 23, has done the lion's share of his work on the power play, scoring 12 goals on the man advantage using a shot that his coach, Bill Peters, described as "a weapon."

Faulk is a big minute-eater for the Hurricanes, as well, logging at least 22 minutes in each of his last five games, including 25:53 in a 3-2 loss to New Jersey on Dec. 29.

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