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At the Rink: Canucks at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets should have home-ice advantage playing the Vancouver Canucks on Friday, but Nationwide Arena has been anything but that so far in 2014-15.

During a stretch in which the Blue Jackets (6-13-2) have lost 13 of 15 games, they have also been defeated in six of seven games on their ice. Overall, Columbus is 3-7-1 at home.

“It’s tough for the fans to watch,” Columbus right wing Jared Boll said. “We’ve got to play better. In every game we play good for little spurts in time. That’s not good enough.”

If the home-ice woes weren’t worrisome enough, the Canucks (15-6-1) have been stellar on the road with an 8-3-0 mark, with wins in five of the past six games outside Vancouver. Columbus is the first of seven straight on the road for Vancouver.

“We play the same both at home and on the road,” Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. “We’ve had good performances in different games that were enough to get us wins, but it’s always hard to win on the road.”

Canucks right wing and former Blue Jackets player Derek Dorsett can’t pin down why Vancouver is tied for the NHL lead in road wins.

“Every day we look at it as a new challenge,” he said. “We don’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We make sure we’re ready whether it’s a home game or road game.”

For the Blue Jackets, losers of four straight, the lack of consistency has been a problem. Yes, there have been in inordinate amount of injuries (142 man games lost), but those healthy bodies haven’t been playing the “Blue Jackets way” according to left wing Scott Hartnell.

He experienced the Blue Jackets’ relentless forechecking for years as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers before being traded to Columbus in June.

“Coming in the last couple of years with Philly, it’s a hard building to play in,” he said. “It seemed like you always had someone on you. We’ve gotten way from the identity of what makes this team successful.

“We have to make it where a team like Vancouver comes in once a year and goes, ‘Oh man, remember last year when we just got punished every time we touched the puck?’ That’s what we need to have.”

Dorsett recalls how difficult the Blue Jackets made it for him last season in his first two games in Nationwide Arena with the New York Rangers.

“They were a hard team to play against and I don’t expect anything different,” he said. “They’re always going to work hard.

“There are some new guys in their locker room. Some guys parted ways. Sometimes that changes the identity of a team. Every team has to find an identity as quickly as possible. With the staff they have there and the management, they’ll get there.”

Here are the projected lineups:

CANUCKS

Daniel SedinHenrik SedinRadim Vrbata

Chris HigginsNick BoninoAlexandre Burrows

Shawn MatthiasBrad RichardsonLinden Vey

Derek DorsettBo HorvatJannik Hansen

Alexander EdlerChristopher Tanev

Luca SbisaKevin Bieksa

Ryan StantonYannick Weber

Ryan Miller

Eddie Lack

Scratched: Frank Corrado,

Injured: Dan Hamhuis (lower body), Tom Sestito (groin), Zack Kassian (upper body)

BLUE JACKETS

Scott Hartnell - Ryan JohansenNick Foligno

Matt Calvert - Boone JennerCam Atkinson

Brian Gibbons - Artem AnisimovJack Skille

Corey Tropp - Alexander Wennberg - Jared Boll

Jack Johnson - Dalton Prout

Tim Erixon - James Wisniewski

Jordan Leopold - David Savard

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Kevin Connauton, Adam Cracknell

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

Status report: Erixon replaces Connauton, who took moved into the lineup last week after being claimed off waivers from the Dallas Stars. “(Erixon) sat here for three games. It’s time to get him back in the lineup,” Richards said … Kassian sustained the injury to his finger Tuesday vs. the New Jersey Devils and could be out two to three weeks.

Who’s hot: Columbus (23.2) is fifth in power-play percentage. Its 19 goals are second to Pittsburgh’s 22 … The Canucks are sixth in the NHL (85.3 percent) in penalty kill.

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