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Preview: Jackets seeking 10th straight win in big 'Metro' tilt vs Florida

Jones a gametime decision for Columbus; Petrovic will return for Panthers.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

GAME 75: PANTHERS (37-27-7) AT BLUE JACKETS (41-28-5)

Location: Nationwide Arena, 7 p.m., Thursday

TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go (Jeff Rimer, Jody Shelley); Fox Sports Florida

Radio: 97.1 FM & (Bob McElligott)

A couple weeks ago, this game looked like it might be a do-or-die situation for the Blue Jackets.

Now, after Columbus has strung together nine straight wins to tie its second-longest winning streak in franchise history, it's just another really big game among the eight remaining on the Blue Jackets' schedule.

"I don't even care about the streak," Columbus captain Nick Foligno said. "I just want points. [Reporters] can talk about [it]. We don't even care. Once we get to 17, maybe we'll care, but we went through that [last season]. It's a pretty cool feather in the cap, but right now, all we're about is getting into the playoffs. We want it to continue, don't get me wrong, but our focus now is just getting ready for another big game on Thursday."

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'Breadman' toasting the NHL again, proving he's no ordinary slice

Panarin's latest feats show he's the 'gamebreaker' Columbus needed.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

NEW YORK - All he needed was a sheepish smile.

Asked if he feels like a "gamebreaker" in the NHL, akin to guys like Alex Ovechkin or Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin looked a little embarrassed. He laughed, hunched his shoulders, gave an interpreter a smile and then left no doubt.

"There is the answer," the interpreter said, smiling, after Panarin's second-career hat trick Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

Panarin, who led the Blue Jackets to a 5-3 victory against the New York Rangers for their ninth straight win, followed up that comment with two words. In English.

"You know," he said, definitively.

Yes, we do know.

The answer to the "gamebreaker" question doesn't need to be spoken aloud, because Panarin lets his play answer that one nearly every single game. The answer is without a doubt, yes, he is a gamebreaker and the rest of the NHL is finding that out this season - when Panarin has continued to light up the scoreboard without Kane as a linemate.

"He's meant so much to our team," said Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, who assisted on Panarin's second goal Tuesday night. "He's a gamebreaker. We've been looking for that player here. He's just offensively so gifted and does an unbelievable job. In moments you need him, he just rises to the occasion."

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Labatt Blue What We Learned: CBJ 5, NYR 3

Panarin nets a hat trick as Jackets win ninth straight

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

NEW YORK - During the marathon of an 82-game NHL regular season, a lot can happen in 16 days.

Players can become heroes or goats. Coaches can be hired, fired, spared or placed on the hot seat. Seasons can be made or busted, with hopes for qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs ignited or dashed.

All it takes is a good or bad stretch to go either direction, and there's been a whole lot of good for the Blue Jackets in the past 16 days, starting with a winning streak that extended to nine straight games Tuesday in a 5-3 victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

It capped off a sweep of their final back-to-back of the season, which started with an impressive come-from-behind victory in overtime Monday in Boston.

"I have to be really careful with my frustration when things aren't going well for the key guys on our team, because they're not going to be perfect," said coach John Tortorella, who has poked and prodded those some of his key players all season, looking for a spark. "I just like the way we work through it. It's a really big road trip for us here."

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Preview: Buoyed by eighth straight win, Jackets go for ninth in New York

Columbus tied in points with Flyers, just four points back of first-place Capitals

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

GAME 74: BLUE JACKETS (40-28-5) AT RANGERS (32-32-8)

Location: Madison Square Garden, 7 p.m., Tuesday

TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go (Jeff Rimer, Jody Shelley); MSG Network

Radio: 97.1 FM & (Bob McElligott)

They should probably be looking for a way to bounce back from a disappointing night in Boston, but things are just falling into place for the Blue Jackets right now.

Despite being outplayed by the Boston Bruins, and outshot 38-25, Columbus found another way to win Monday at TD Garden, coming back from two goals down and overcoming two blown leads to extend its season-high winning streak to eight straight with a 5-4 victory.

Now comes the hard part, a day later at Madison Square Garden in New York. After enjoying one of the most memorable victories of the season, the Jackets will try to make it nine in a row against the New York Rangers.

"You're not going to play your best every single night," said forward Cam Atkinson, who buried a wrist shot at 2:55 of overtime to defeat the Bruins on his 17th goal of the season. "What matters most is the end result and finding a way to win. It wasn't the prettiest [game], but it's huge for us. It was a huge two points."

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Labatt Blue What We Learned: CBJ 5, BOS 4 (OT)

It was a huge two points for the Blue Jackets, who won their eighth straight game and took the three-game season series from the Bruins

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

BOSTON - The Blue Jackets came into TD Garden on Monday seeking points more than revenge.

They wound up getting both, after Cam Atkinson took a feed in overtime from Ryan Murray and launched a wrist shot that beat Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask with 2:05 left in OT - lifting Columbus to a 5-4 big victory.

"We're a resilient group," said Atkinson, who scored the fifth OT goal of his career. "I don't think we played nearly our best. We found a way to just stick with it. We knew [the Bruins were ] banged up on the other side, but they've been finding ways to win, they're a good team and they know how to win. We just stuck with it and found a way to just chip away ... stick with it and it was a huge two points." 

The Blue Jackets (40-28-5) won their eighth straight game, tying the third-longest winning streak in franchise history, and took the three-game season series from the Bruins (45-18-8), who'd beaten Columbus here, 7-2, on Dec. 18.

That was a very different time of the season, though, and a different Blue Jackets team. That group was reeling aand struggling to find its identity amid a sea of inconsistency. The team that skated out for Columbus on Monday was more confident, more resilient and just plain hungrier, with a second straight trip to the postseason still at stake.

That, plus a strong night in net by Joonas Korpisalo, is how the Jackets survived a game they were largely outplayed, fending off wave after wave of Bruins offensive attacks.

"That game belongs to 'Korpi,'" coach John Tortorella said. "He was just ... it could've been 9-4, so he was outstanding, as far as what he's doing now in the situation this team is in, and where he's upped his game."

It was the third straight win for the Jackets' second goalie, who'd dropped his previous three starts in a row and struggled through most of January and February. It was also the fourth overtime win of the season for Korpisalo, who was under seige most of the game.

"I think it's good," Korpisalo said. "You can see the team's battling in front of you and I don't want to let them down. It's good to get some wins. These are huge games for us."

Boone Jenner scored the game's first goal to give Columbus a 1-0 lead early in the first period, but from that point it became a battle to keep up with the Bruins. Boston scored three goals in the second, taking a 3-1 lead on goals by rookie Ryan Donato, Brad Marchand and Riley Nash, but Columbus didn't fold.

A goal by rookie Sonny Milano just 25 seconds after Nash scored made it 3-2 after 40 minutes, which set the stage for a wild third.

"You talk about trying to stop momentum, we had problems with it all night long, quite honestly," Tortorella said. "But when they go 3-1, and basically just totally outplaying us, to get back and at least give us a chance going into the third, that was important."

Thomas Vanek tied it, 3-3, early in the third with his second point of the game. Artemi Panarin then gave the Blue Jackets their second lead, 4-3, with a one-timer off a face-off, but it wasn't enough. Boston tied it, 4-4, on the ensuing shift, with Donato finding David Krejci with a slick backhand feed for the tying goal and his third point in his first NHL game.

The game went to OT, which guaranteed Columbus at least one point before Atkinson provided the second with a wicked wrister.

"I don't want to take anything way from the guys," Tortorella said. "I don't think we played well at all tonight, but they still found a way to score timely goals, make some key plays at key times, but let's face it ... we stole two points tonight."

Here's what we learned:

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Preview: Jackets need eighth straight win more than payback in Boston

Columbus heading into final back-to-back, stretch of four games in six days

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

GAME 73: BLUE JACKETS (39-28-5) AT BRUINS (45-17-8)

Location: TD Garden, 7 p.m., Monday

TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go (Jeff Rimer, Jody Shelley); New England Sports Network (NESN), SportsNet, TVA Sports

Radio: 97.1 FM & (Bob McElligott)

The last time the Blue Jackets were in Boston, things did not go well.

In fact, things went quite badly. The Boston Bruins won, 7-2, on Dec. 18 at TD Garden, scoring four goals in the third period in a stinging defeat for the Blue Jackets, who'd also lost by the same score six days earlier to the Edmonton Oilers at Nationwide Arena.

It's a much different scenario this time, as Columbus looks to extend an eight-game winning streak and continue its hunt for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They need to keep gathering wins, preferrably in regulation or overtime, so they can make their second straight postseason appearance and fourth in franchise history.

"We want to get the win," captain Nick Foligno said. "The last time [here] we didn't. We know it's a hard building to win in, but we've got to find a way to play better than we did the last time. There's always motivation, but our motivation isn't revenge. It's just about climbing the standings and making sure we're giving ourselves the best chance to win because of the race we're in with some other teams. The Bruins are in the way of that, so we're going to have an exciting game on our hands."

The Bruins are dealing with numerous injuries and won't be at full strength. They'll be without their top defense pairing of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy plus three top-six forwards, including centers Patrice Bergeron and David Backes.

Columbus also has a big injury situation to overcome, as defenseman Seth Jones will miss his second straight game with an upper-body injury.

"The way we're playing right now, we're not really thinking about the past too much," said Zach Werenski , who is Jones' defense partner. "Obviously, we know what happened here with a 7-2 loss. You never want to have that happen, but it's part of the game and it does happen. I think coming in here tonight, we want to make a statement that it was kind of a fluke and it won't happen again."

The Blue Jackets are coming off a 2-1 win Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, which was their seventh win in a row overall and seventh in a row at Nationwide Arena - one short of tying the franchise record for consecutive home victories. It was also their eighth win (8-2-0) since adding three veterans before the NHL Trade Deadline passed last month.

Columbus currently owns the second wild card in the Eastern Conference with 83 points and has 10 games left to cement that spot or higher for the postseason. The game against the Bruins will begin the Blue Jackets' 17th and final back-to-back of the season and a stretch of four games in six days that includes home games against the Florida Panthers on Thursday and St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

Tuukka Rask, who's won his past six appearances, is expected to start for the Bruins. Joonas Korpisalo, who's won in his past two appearances, will start for the Blue Jackets - who are averaging four goals a game during their win streak.

"You don't worry about putting fingers on [why], you don't overthink it, you just play," Columbus coach John Tortorella said. "Guys are playing better. If we could put our finger on it to score goals, we'd have done this a long time ago. It's a funny game, how confidence comes and goes with players. You get a couple of bounces here and there, and you gain momentum off of it. We don't do much talking about it. We just hope it continues."

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Labatt Blue What We Learned: CBJ 2, OTT 1

Jackets win seventh straight behind solid play from Sergei Bobrovsky.

by Brian Hedger BlueJacketsNHL /

It wasn't the prettiest game, but it didn't need to be.

All the Blue Jackets needed Saturday night was the green light for another victory on a green night at Nationwide Arena, outlasting the Ottawa Senators on St. Patrick's Day, 2-1, for their seventh straight victory.

That's a season-high for consecutive wins, topping the six straight they strung together Nov. 11-24, and their seventh straight win on home ice. More importantly it was another two points for Columbus (39-28-5) in a frenetic final push to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"The points [are] most important," said Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 23 saves and bounced back from getting bounced around on a collision in the second period. "We're fighting for playoffs and every game is huge for us."

This one came with its own challenges, despite the Senators (26-34-11) being well outside playoff contention.

Ottawa, which took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Alexandre Burrows at 12:16 of the first period, was 5-2-1 in its previous eight games and had a three-game winning streak entering the game - all against playoff contenders.

The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, didn't have top defenseman Seth Jones, who missed the game with an upper-body injury he'd played the previous two games with and has caused him to miss three practices.

None of it mattered, as Columbus again found a way to earn two points.

"It's another one-goal game," Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. "I think we've played over 30. There's 32 or so. I think that's our 21st one-goal win. I thought it was the most comfortable we've looked protecting a lead in the third period. I thought we checked really well. I thought we [stunk] the first period, quite honestly, but we gathered ourselves and I thought we played really well throughout the rest of the game."

As a result, they maintained their same playoff positon with the victory - keeping hold of the first wild card in the Eastern Conference with 10 games left. Led by Bobrovsky, plus big goals from Boone Jenner and Markus Nutivarra, another 'W' was added to the win column and it's onto Boston to start another key stretch Monday.

"Winning is always fun," Bobrovsky said. "At this time of the year, it's all tense and getting smaller, the focus gets narrow and each bounce matters. So, it's nice."

Here's what we learned:

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Practice Notes: Tortorella says quality depth is 'healthy' for Jackets

Cracking the lineup is harder now, creating competition for ice time

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

It took most of the season, plus three nice additions at the NHL Trade Deadline, but the Blue Jackets now have a lot more depth.

Even without injured right wing Josh Anderson, they've got 14 healthy forwards to pick from and the defense corps is now 10 strong after rookie Dean Kukan was activated off injured reserve Friday.

There's a consistent four-line rotation now up front, which helps all lines stay fresh, and injuries have become slightly less concerning because of the quality players waiting for their chance to shine.

Ryan Murray is one of those guys now, at least for the time being, and coach John Tortorella offered some advice on getting back in the lineup.

"Just play better," said Tortorella, who played Markus Nutivaara over Murray on Thursday in Philadelphia, after using him as an injury fill-in for Murray on Monday against Montreal. "I'm not spending much time on this part of the year explaining things. I explained the depth chart right after the deadline to the team, as far as where everybody stood, but there's healthy competition right on through. We make decisions based on your play."

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Preview: Blue Jackets hit their stride, seek seventh straight win

Columbus averaging 4.3 goals a game in win streak, eyeing up persistent Senators

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

GAME 72: SENATORS (25-33-11) AT BLUE JACKETS (38-28-5)

Location: Nationwide Arena, 7 p.m., Saturday

TV: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go (Jeff Rimer, Jody Shelley); CITY, TVA Sports 2

Radio: CD102.5 FM & (Bob McElligott)

It's taken most of the season, but the Blue Jackets are now playing with aggressiveness and confidence.

They currently occupy the first wild card in the Eastern Conference by a point over the New Jersey Devils, they're tied in points with the Philadelphia Flyers - who are third in the Metropolitan Division via a tiebreaker - and they've tied their season high with six straight wins after defeating the Flyers 5-3 on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.

The focus for Columbus is now squarely on qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 11 games left, starting with this game against the Senators.

"This is a perfect time for us to hit our stride," said defenseman Seth Jones, who had an assist against Philadelphia to extend his point streak to four games. "Obviously, you want to be in stride all season, but it's just too long for that to happen. Everyone goes through their struggles throughout the season. I'm glad we're starting to improve now and get on the right track again."

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Labatt Blue What We Learned: CBJ 5, PHI 3

Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves, and Cam Atkinson notched his fourth career hat trick to lead the Blue Jackets to a 5-3 victory

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider /

PHILADELPHIA - The games are starting to fly off the schedule, each adding more importance than the last, and the Blue Jackets are loving every second of it.

Boosted by excitement in the hunt for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they're playing their best hockey of the season and continued that roll against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday at Wells Fargo Center.

Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves, including 12-of-12 in the third period, Cam Atkinson notched his fourth career hat trick and the Blue Jackets won, 5-3, for their sixth straight victory.

"We're playing our best hockey right now and this is when you want to be playing your best hockey," said Atkinson, whose hat trick was the first of the season for Columbus. "We deserved that win tonight, for sure. We're playing with confidence throughout the lineup and it shows."

It showed early in this game, when the Blue Jackets (38-28-5) raced out to an early 2-0 lead on goals 11 seconds apart by Oliver Bjorkstrand and Boone Jenner. After the Flyers countered with a goal by Claude Giroux, Atkinson made it 3-1 with his first goal - which he tipped off a shot through traffic by defenseman Zach Werenski.

Philadelphia pulled within a goal, 3-2, on a power-play goal by Shayne Gostisbehere 14 seconds into the second, but Atkinson struck again 3:09 later, giving Columbus a 4-2 lead. The Flyers pulled within a goal again, 4-3, when Andrew MacDonald scored later in the second, but the Blue Jackets preserved their lead to start the third.

Bobrovsky and the defense took it from there, defusing the Flyers' strong push in the third.

"I think we're learning a lot," coach John Tortorella said. "It's like we talked about before the third period, we're right where we want to be - up by a goal, you know they're coming, let's see how we handle this. So, we're learning lessons along the way, as a young team, and finding ways to get some point here of late."

As for Atkinson's hat trick, he scored the third goal into a vacated net with less than a second left, after missing the open net with a shot from long distance. It was his first hat trick since Jan. 25, 2016 against the Montreal Canadiens and put a smile on the Blue Jackets' faces.

"We owed them," Atkinson said, after helping the Blue Jackets split the season series and pull even with the Flyers. "Every time we played them, it went into overtime and the last time we were here they beat us, came back. We're so focused right now. It's do or die. We knew they were a point ahead of us and it's going to be an absolute battle the whole way in, so we're in control of our fate and have to keep this thing going."

Here's what we learned:

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