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Preview: Blue Jackets at Bruins

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

WATCH: FOX Sports Ohio
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All indications suggest that Nick Foligno will rejoin the Blue Jackets' lineup on Thursday night against the Boston Bruins, the first game he's played since Nov. 2. He has met the team in Boston, and if he draws in, the Blue Jackets will have a lineup decision to make at forward - but that also depends on the status of Derek MacKenzie, who missed a chunk of Tuesday's game with a lower body injury.

If MacKenzie cannot play, Foligno is likely to take his place. If they can both play, it's possible that either Michael Chaput or Sean Collins would be scratched, though both played very well in the Jackets' OT loss to the Capitals. On defense, it remains to be seen whether Todd Richards rolls with the same six defensemen that he used against Washington; the decision has largely hinged between David Savard or Dalton Prout pairing with Nikita Nikitin

Sergei Bobrovsky is likely to get the start for Columbus, while the Bruins may opt to split goaltending duties as they're also starting a back-to-back on Thursday. If Tuukka Rask is rested for Friday's divisional game against Ottawa, the Bruins could start Chad Johnson against the Blue Jackets. 

For many teams in the NHL, the Boston Bruins are one of the strongest tests they'll face.

The Bruins are a physical, energetic and occasionally downright angry team that plays a brand of hockey which challenges opponents to rise to the occasion. They have big, strong forwards who can put the puck in the net and a bruising group of defensemen that can make a difference at both ends of the rink. 

Entering their second meeting of the season with the Bruins, the Blue Jackets have a pretty good idea of what to expect. In the first game between the two clubs (Oct. 12 at Nationwide Arena), Columbus played a tight-checking game and had a lead for the first 36 minutes of the contest. Chris Kelly's shorthanded goal - a long-range slap shot that surprised Bobrovsky - tied the game late in the second period and the Bruins rode that momentum into the locker room, and it carried over to a dominant third period.

And while it hasn't been smooth sailing for the Bruins since that game, they've answered a 1-3-1 stretch with three straight wins and a 3-0-1 mark on their current home stand that ends with Thursday's game against Columbus. Their most recent game was an impressive 3-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, a game that will be remembered for Steven Stamkos' broken leg that rocked the hockey world.

It was a strong showing against a Lightning club that's been playing very well lately, and the Blue Jackets are in for another battle just as they had on Tuesday in Washington. One thing they must do better? Managing the puck late in games, especially when they have a lead; the Blue Jackets held a 3-2 lead in the final minutes of regulation but saw two points quickly become one when Alex Ovechkin scored to win the game in overtime.

But it wasn't a complete wash for Columbus, which played well for most of the game and did a lot of the things it set out to do: play physical against the Capitals' top players, get a lead, and remain disciplined as to not put Washington's league-best power play on the job. For the most part, that was the case, but a smattering of defensive breakdowns allowed the Capitals to play the part of the opportunists and escape with a victory.

Following Thursday's game, the Blue Jackets will fly home to Columbus to face the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night at Nationwide Arena - and then the fun begins. Beginning with a Sunday matinee in Ottawa, the Blue Jackets embark on a five-game, nine-day trip through Canada that takes them from Ontario to British Columbia and back to Ontario just before American Thanksgiving.


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