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Preview: Blue Jackets vs. Islanders

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

WATCH: FOX Sports Ohio
LISTEN: 97.1 The Fan

After practice on Friday at Nationwide Arena, Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards hinted at more potential lineup changes for Saturday's game against the New York Islanders. RJ Umberger, who was a game-time decision on Thursday with a stiff neck, may fall into that same boat on Saturday as he did not practice with the team on Friday. Nick Foligno is also not expected to play due to personal reasons, and on the back end, Ryan Murray (upper body) is questionable to play against the Islanders.

Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 30 saves was named one of the game's three stars on Thursday, is expected to make the start in goal for the Blue Jackets.

A longer-than-usual post-game meeting between players and coaches on Thursday night was followed by an intense, detail-oriented practice on Friday in preparation for another Metropolitan Division matchup.

What will Richards see from his group on Saturday night? He's hoping for a re-energized, re-focused group that is ready to put its "reactive" nature in the rear view mirror; specifically, Richards said the Blue Jackets have not been proactive in games and instead have let several occurrences in games affect their play.

When they were at their best last season and playing well earlier this season, the Blue Jackets tended to throw the first punch and play with a lead. Scoring first is obviously a key in any sport - and it's no different in the NHL - but the Blue Jackets have struggled not only to score first, but to score in general.

They have scored just three goals in their last three games at Nationwide Arena and are looking to break out of an offensive spell on Saturday night; it's the final game of a four-game home stand that they had hoped to use their advantage after a disappointing loss to the Penguins last Friday at CONSOL Energy Center.

Instead, things have gone the other way for the Blue Jackets and the locker room was not a happy place on Thursday night. Their three most recent losses have come at the hands of backup goaltenders (Jeff Zatkoff, Robin Lehner and Cam Talbot) and the offense hasn't provided much support to its own, despite a stellar performance on Thursday by Bobrovsky and a similar effort by Curtis McElhinney last weekend against Pittsburgh.

Dubinsky, who made pointed and passionate comments after the Jackets' loss to the Rangers, said it's going to take a "hard look in the mirror" from a lot of players on the team to collectively snap out of their funk. It's still early enough to be classified as, well, early...but the Blue Jackets are at risk of really falling off the pace before the Thanksgiving holiday benchmark. 

Their opponent tonight has dropped back-to-back games on the road and is in a similar offensive spell; the Islanders were blanked 1-0 by Justin Peters and the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night, and head coach Jack Capuano was not happy with his club's ability (or lack thereof) to finish the chances they created. 

And finally, a weird but true stat: the Islanders have not scored a power play goal (0-for-18) since they traded for Thomas Vanek.




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