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The 5th Line Report: Blue Jackets respond to top teams

by Martin Poston / Columbus Blue Jackets

After a long Christmas weekend, the Columbus Blue Jackets stared into the eyes of adversity and gained two wins against the two best teams in the National Hockey League.

First, the Jackets fired on all cylinders and soundly beat a Dallas Stars team that leads the entire league.

Then, facing a late deficit and losing goaltender Curtis McElhinney in overtime, the Jackets topped the East-leading Washington Capitals in a shootout.

Just two wins? Sure. But both wins were important ones.

One can look at the NHL standings right now and see that the Jackets are still clearly facing an uphill climb. The team is now at .500 since Tortorella took over, but still sits seven games below .500 overall.

The conclusion of Tuesday's match-up against the Minnesota Wild will mark the season’s midpoint for the Blue Jackets. If these last two games are a sign of what's to come, then buckle up.

This team has shown new life and, with more consistent effort, individual and team accountability and perhaps even a little bit of luck, the postseason is not out of the question.

That said, the last few minutes of Saturday's game were a stark reminder that nothing ever comes easy for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With McElhinney and Sergei Bobrovsky on injured reserve, the goaltending tandem of Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo from the Lake Erie Monsters (AHL) will be the goaltending tandem in Columbus to start the week.

Forsberg came into Saturday's game just 55 seconds into the overtime period. He made six saves in overtime and stopped two out of three shots during the shootout to earn his first NHL win.

Now, with both AHL goaltenders backstopping the Jackets, Columbus faces its next tough test.

It begins with Minnesota. The Wild wrap up a four-game road trip at Nationwide Arena Tuesday, after taking a pair of losses against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers over the weekend.

The Jackets will then play a home-and-home and try to gain some ground in the Metropolitan Division against the Carolina Hurricanes, in their first two meetings of the season on Friday and Saturday.

The Jackets have an opportunity this week to put a streak together. The last two games at home against two good teams and tough odds have shown fans a side of this group they have not seen nearly enough this season. Only time will tell if those two big wins are the catalyst for what would be an unprecedented run.

Yes, it is only two wins. But some fans can't help but wonder if this is just the push this team needs to catch fire.

It won't come easy. Then again, it never has this season.

But adversity builds character, and the Jackets showed plenty of it in these last couple of games. The question is whether they can keep it going while the goaltenders get healthy.

Buckle up, 5th Line. See you Tuesday at Nationwide.

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