preview NSH 4-13


COLUMBUS, 8th in Metropolitan
NASHVILLE, 4th in Central

For the second straight season, as a young, banged-up Blue Jackets team comes down the stretch, there are good games and there are tough games.

And Thursday night’s contest against Florida falls into the latter category.

Facing a team that went to last year’s Stanley Cup Final and has hopes to do even better this year, the Blue Jackets just couldn’t get much going consistently during a 4-0 loss to the Panthers in Sunrise.

A game after standing toe-to-toe with recent two-time Cup champ Tampa Bay on the road Tuesday, Columbus was chasing the contest against the Panthers from pretty much the start and rarely caught them.

“We could have done a lot better tonight,” defenseman Erik Gudbranson lamented. “I think we didn’t manage the puck very well through the neutral zone. They kind of three-quarter iced us for the whole game. It’s tough going back for pucks like that, every shift, gapping up to the blue line going back.

“We might have lost a step through that and our mismanagement, and at the end of the day, they were 100 percent better than us the whole game.”

That’s just reality right now for a CBJ team that still has half a roster’s worth of players out of the lineup, many of them performers they think can be difference makers. There will be nights when they are able to hang with some of the best teams in the game, but there will also be nights where lessons are learned.

As presently constructed, the Panthers – a veteran team that excels in winning board battles and playing a heavy game – are just a bad matchup for the Blue Jackets.

“I think in that type of game, we’re not there yet,” head coach Pascal Vincent said postgame. “We’re just not there yet, physically and experience wise. It’s hard for our team to manage those games. So I think tonight, we were exposed, and that’s a learning curve. How do we get better? How do we learn from this?”

The goal is to do what the Panthers have done and build a consistent championship contender, and the reality is that takes time when you go the route the Blue Jackets have. Four players in the lineup in Florida are age 22 or younger, and six others have played less than 125 NHL games.

Another tough draw comes up tonight against a Nashville team that is also ramping up for the postseason, but Cole Sillinger said the team’s mind-set is to keep trying themselves against the best.

“I think it’s a challenge,” he said. “I think that’s the way we want to approach it. We have a lot of guys up (from the minors), a lot of guys getting an opportunity throughout the lineup. It should be more of a challenge mentality and an evaluation to see where you’re at as an individual and where we’re at as a group.”

Know The Foe: Nashville Predators

Head coach: Andrew Brunette (First season)

Team stats: Goals per game: 3.23 (13th) | Scoring defense: 3.00 (14th) | PP: 21.1 percent (19th) | PK: 76.9 percent (24th)

The narrative: Brunette’s first season in Music City has been a success, with the Predators clinching a playoff berth. They’ll go into the postseason as one of the league’s hottest teams, following up a 27-25-2 start with an 19-4-3 run over the last 25 games that left the rest of the Western Conference challengers in the dust. The next step will be to win a round, as the Predators haven’t done so since 2017-18.

Team leaders: Filip Forsberg has long been one of the most underrated players in the league, but he’s reached a new level this season, notching a career- and team-high 92 points including 46 goals, good for a tie for seventh in the league. Roman Josi is again putting up ridiculous numbers from the blue line, with a 21-60-81 line that has him first in the NHL among blueliners in goals and third in points. Veteran additions Gustav Nyquist (22-50-72) and Ryan O’Reilly (26-41-67) have been perfect acquisitions for Nashville as well.

In net, Juuse Saros leads the league with 62 starts and is 32-25-3 on the season with a 2.82 GAA and .907 save percentage.

What's new: The Preds have cooled a bit of late, dropping five of the last seven, but there’s still good reason to think they could play spoiler as a wild card in a loaded Western Conference. They’re largely healthy at the moment, and the additions of Nyquist and O’Reilly have added some much-needed scoring depth. Brunette has the Predators playing hard, confident hockey as they come down the stretch.

Trending: Columbus dropped the first game in Nationwide Arena by a 2-1 score March 9, but the teams have split the season series each of the past two years. The bad news? The Blue Jackets are 0-6-1 in their last seven games on Broadway.

Former CBJ: Nyquist is the only former Jacket currently on the roster, while Liam Foudy was claimed on waivers by the Preds and played in three games with the team earlier this year. Columbus-area native Kiefer Sherwood is also on the squad and has a 10-17-27 line in 65 games.

Roster Report

Projected Lineup (subject to change)

Johnny Gaudreau – Dmitri Voronkov – Alex Nylander
Alexandre Texier – Cole Sillinger – Kirill Marchenko
Mikael Pyyhtia – Sean Kuraly – Mathieu Olivier
James Malatesta – Justin Danforth – Trey Fix-Wolansky
Zach Werenski – Damon Severson
Ivan Provorov – Erik Gudbranson
Nick Blankenburg – David Jiricek
Jet Greaves
Malcolm Subban

Scratches: Adam Fantilli (calf laceration), Yegor Chinakhov (upper-body), Adam Boqvist (upper body), Boone Jenner (day to day), Elvis Merzlikins (lower body), Daniil Tarasov (upper body), Jake Bean (upper body), Carson Meyer (upper body), Brendan Gaunce

Injured reserve: Kent Johnson (torn labrum in left shoulder, out for season)

Roster Report: Fix-Wolansky goes in for Gaunce while Greaves gets another start against the Predators.

Stats to Know

  • Zach Werenski tied James Wisniewski (2013-14) for a CBJ single-season record with his 44th assist Tuesday night. He has set a career high with 53 points on the season, and his point total is second all-time for a single season among CBJ defensemen (Seth Jones, 57, 2017-18).
  • Johnny Gaudreau notched his 500th career assist Tuesday, making him one of 27 active NHLers to reach the mark. With 48 assists on the season, he’s two away from his second consecutive 50-helper season, which would make him only the second CBJ player to reach the mark (Artemi Panarin).
  • Milestone watch: Alexandre Texier is set to play in his 200th NHL game (33-45-78, 199 GP). ... Werenski is two points from 300 for his NHL career (88-210-298, 484 GP). ... Erik Gudbranson is four assists from 100 for his NHL career (34-96-130, 787 GP).

Who’s Hot

Kirill Marchenko notched his fifth career NHL game with multiple goals Tuesday in Tampa Bay and reached a new career high with 23 tallies on the season. He has a 5-2-7 line in the last seven games and has three multipoint games in that span. … Dmitri Voronkov’s 18th goal of the season last week moved him into third place alone in CBJ annals in goals for a rookie, behind only Marchenko (21, 2022-23) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (20, 2017-18). He is currently fifth this season among NHL rookies in tallies. … Cole Sillinger has a 2-4-6 line in the last eight contests. ... Zach Werenski has a 5-10-15 line in the last 15 games, and his eight goals since Feb. 17 are tied for second among NHL defensemen. ... Johnny Gaudreau has a 4-26-30 line in the last 32 games. ... The team’s rookie stat line of 31-42-73 is third in the NHL in goals and fourth in points.

This Day in CBJ History

April 13, 2006: Defenseman Duvie Westcott takes a CBJ-record 31 penalty minutes in a 4-1 win vs. St. Louis. All 31 minutes came in the second period and 29 came at the 11:25 mark when he was given two 10-minute misconducts, received five minutes for fighting Jamal Mayers, and added a pair of instigator minors.

April 13, 2022: Recently signed from the University of Michigan, Kent Johnson and Nick Blankenburg make their NHL debuts in a 5-1 win over Montreal. Zach Werenski also played in his 400th NHL game.

April 13, 2023: Tyler Angle, Mikael Pyyhtia, Samuel Knazko and Stanislav Svozil all make their NHL debuts in a 3-2 overtime win vs. Pittsburgh at Nationwide Arena.

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