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The 5th Line Report: Jackets head West

by Martin Poston / Columbus Blue Jackets

First, congratulations to Brandon Saad on his first-ever Honda NHL All-Star Game appearance this past weekend, and to Cam Atkinson on being named the NHL's Second Star of the Week today.

The Columbus Blue Jackets return to action on Tuesday after a lengthy break for the All-Star Weekend, hitting the road for the annual Western Canada road trip.

The time off was a chance to heal for some, most notably head coach John Tortorella who missed the last three games after breaking a couple of ribs during the Jackets' outdoor practice before the break.

The road trip begins on Tuesday in Edmonton, where the Oilers sit in last place in the Western Conference. The Oilers are led by Taylor Hall, whose health and leadership has been key for a team that lost alternate captain Andrew Ference and No. 1 pick Connor McDavid to injury.

The Oilers continue to be supported by young talent built through the draft, with young guns like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle supporting the scoring cause alongside veterans Teddy Purcell and Benoit Pouliot.

Goaltender Cam Talbot has been carrying much of the load in net for Edmonton lately. He has lost two straight, and the Oilers have now lost three straight overall.

Next, the Jackets look to avenge a Nov, 10th loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

Vancouver has struggled for consistency since a relatively hot start in early October. The

Canucks have dealt with some injuries, with All-Star winger Daniel Sedin being one of only two players to suit up for all 50 games this season.

Sedin and his brother Henrik lead the scoring attack with 44 and 37 points, respectively, while getting support from Jannik Hansen and Radim Vrbata in the goals department this year. Ryan Miller anchors the Canucks' goal, and is looking to get back on track after dropping three of his last four decisions.

From there, the Jackets head to Calgary on Friday to try and even up the season series with the Flames after a 4-2 loss on Jan. 21.

All-Star teammates Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano lead the Flames offensively, and Karri Ramo continues to get a majority of the work in net. The Flames have struggled lately, however, losing three straight since their win in Columbus. The Flames will face a red-hot Carolina Panthers team on Wednesday before the Jackets visit the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Following this road trip, the Blue Jackets return for a five-game homestand at Nationwide Arena to carry them through mid-February. The Jackets are looking to get healthy, while also building on the strong boost they got from a good showing in their last two games before the break.

Just 31 games remain. With a very memorable All-Star weekend in the book, it's time to get back to work.

Enjoy the late-night road games, and we'll see you at Nationwide on Feb. 9th, 5th Line.

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