The Columbus Blue Jackets will ride a two-game winning streak into this week’s action, with three games on the slate and a drive to gain some momentum going into the NHL All-Star Weekend break at the end of January.
After taking a tough loss in Brooklyn against the Islanders on Jan. 12, the Jackets responded the next night with an exciting 3-1 victory in Toronto against the Maple Leafs.
The Jackets followed that game with a thriller in the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena against the Colorado Avalanche, in which Jack Johnson shot a bouncing puck past Calvin Pickard, putting the home team up 2-1 with 1:07 to go in regulation and sending an already raucous crowd into a frenzy.
In addition to Johnson's game-winning goal, the victory also delivered goaltender Joonas Korpisalo his second straight win, in what has been an exciting four-week stint for the rookie netminder, in relief of Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney.
Bobrovsky is now off the injured reserve list, and will likely see action this week. The question is, how much action he will see coming back from a groin injury?
In the meantime, the Jackets will try to make it three straight wins in another match-up with the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals at home on Tuesday.
Goaltender Braden Holtby continues to be the backstop for the Capitals and has been rock solid all season. Offensively, Alex Ovechkin continues to pace the Caps on the scoresheet with 27 goals, which puts him at second best in the NHL. Chicago’s Patrick Kane currently leads with 29 goals.
The Jackets host the Calgary Flames on Thursday. The Flames currently sit at sixth in the Pacific Division, and are floating around .500 so far this season. They have dropped three of their last four, and their visit to Columbus is the third stop in a five-game road trip.
Goaltender Jonas Hiller has had the last two starts in relief of Karri Ramo, who had started the previous 12 games for Calgary. The Flames are led offensively by Johnny Gaudreau, who has also had significant support from Sean Monahan and Captain Mark Giordano this season.
On Saturday, the Blue Jackets hit the road to Boston, for their first match-up with the Bruins this season.
The Bruins have struggled with consistency all year, despite some flashes of brilliance in the first couple of months of the 2015-16 season. Despite that inconsistency, they are dangerous offensively, with significant contributions from veteran forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
The Jackets look to get a boost this week, with Bobrovsky's anticipated return.
Solid play of late, paired with the return of their top goaltender, gives the Jackets a chance to win some more games and turn some heads going into the All-Star break in Nashville next weekend.
It means leaning on some young guys from the Lake Erie Monsters (AHL), who have been stepping up and filling roles for the Jackets in the wake of injuries. The future of this team is very much in the present right now-- and things are looking up for Columbus and perhaps at just the right time.
See you on Tuesday at Nationwide, 5th Line.