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At the Rink: Blue Jackets at Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- After defeating the Florida Panthers for the ninth consecutive time Monday at Nationwide Arena, the Columbus Blue Jackets will look to make it 10 in a row Thursday at BB&T?Center.

More importantly, the Blue Jackets will be looking to win consecutive games for the third time this season.

"All that's fresh in my mind is Monday's game,"???Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said after the morning skate. "That's it. Couldn't tell you what happened in the past and reasons why. Now we're just trying to focus on tonight."

Florida hasn't defeated the Blue Jackets since a 5-2 victory at Columbus on Nov. 21, 2007. The Panthers' last home victory in the series came Jan. 3, 2004 during goalie Roberto Luongo's first stint in Florida. Panthers coach Gerard Gallant was coaching his second game for Columbus that day after taking over on an interim basis for Doug MacLean midway through the 2003-04 season.

Columbus won 2-1 Monday when Boone Jenner scored the game-winning goal with 9:55 left in the third period.

"The Blue Jackets are a good team,"???Gallant said. "They're beaten up this year. They've got a lot of bad injuries to their club. The other night they came out and they played a hard game against us and we didn't respond. We didn't play that well. But we've got to give them credit. They competed and they battled and they got some solid goaltending. It was a disappointing effort by us, but at the same time they played real well."

Florida bounced back with a 4-3 road victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday when Vincent Trocheck had a goal and two assists.

"The last game we played in Detroit was what we have to do,"???Gallant said. "We came out there, we dictated the pace of the game. We played against a real good team and I???thought we came out and set the tone of the hockey game early. We've got to do that. If we're going to be successful we've got to compete and work hard. We talk about it every game; when we play well we're dictating the pace, we're forechecking hard and we're working hard. It's the same medicine for every team. When you work hard and compete hard you have a chance to win."

The victory Monday snapped a six-game losing streak for the injury-riddled Blue Jackets, who are 3-13-2 since starting the season 4-2-0.

The game against the Panthers is the first of a two-game road trip for Columbus, which plays the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

"I???think it was a big game for us,"???forward Jared Boll said of the victory Monday. "We did a lot of good things that we took away from the game. There's still some stuff we can clean up. I think we really needed that win at home. We've been struggling at home all year so it was a big win for us to get that going and now we go on the road for a couple of games and hopefully we can take that winning feeling and bring it on the road here in Florida."

Here are the projected lineups:


Scott Hartnell - Ryan Johansen - Nick Foligno

Kerby Rychel - Boone Jenner - Cam Atkinson

Matt Calvert - Michael Chaput - Jack Skille

Brian Gibbons - Adam Cracknell - Jared Boll

Jack Johnson - Dalton Prout

Jordan Leopold - David Savard

Kevin Connauton - James Wisniewski

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Tim Erixon, Corey Tropp

Injured: Nathan Horton (back), Ryan Murray (knee), Cody Goloubef (knee), Fedor Tyutin (knee), Brandon Dubinsky (abdominal surgery), Mark Letestu (groin), Artem Anisimov (torn triceps)


Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Tomas Fleischmann

Sean Bergenheim - Jussi Jokinen - Brad Boyes

Brandon Pirri - Vincent Trocheck - Jimmy Hayes

Tomas Kopecky - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Willie Mitchell - Dmitry Kulikov

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched: None

Injured: Dave Bolland (lower body), Scottie Upshall (ankle), Aleksander Barkov (hand)

Status report: Bolland took part in the morning skate and is close to making his return; he's been out since Oct. 17. ... Barkov is expected to miss at least two more games. ... Upshall will skate Friday for the first time since being injured Nov. 24 against the Minnesota Wild. ... Dubinsky took part in the morning skate and Richards said he remained day-to-day. "I've stopped circling dates a month ago,"?????????said Dubinsky, who has spent the entire season on injured reserve.

Who's hot:???????????????????????????Boyes had an assist in each of the past three games. ... Bergenheim also has a three-game point streak (two goals, one assist). ... Ekblad has a goal in each of the past two games. ... Johansen had three goals and two assists in the past six games.

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