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At the Rink: Islanders at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets will turn to backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney against the New York Islanders at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-O) in search of their first win.

In his first start of the season Saturday, McElhinney made 26 saves in a 4-1 loss at the Chicago Blackhawks that kept the Blue Jackets without a win (0-6-0).

"Curtis played great in Chicago and earned another opportunity to play," Columbus coach Todd Richards said.

Sergei Bobrovsky, the 2013 Vezina Trophy winner, started and lost each of the first five games and has a 5.07 goals against average and an .835 save percentage.

McElhinney signed to a two-year contract extension on June 24 and is in his third season with the Blue Jackets.

"He's been great every time he's gone in," Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson said. "Having confidence in your goaltender, who most of the time is your most important player, is huge for us."

The Blue Jackets are trying to avoid becoming the seventh team in NHL history to start the season with seven straight regulation losses. Chicago was the most recent in 1997-98.

Richards made two lineup changes and juggled lines. Cam Atkinson and Kerby Rychel are out and Rene Bourque and Alexander Wennberg return in a swap of forwards.

Bourque has no points in five games after scoring four goals in eight games last season prior to season-ending injury in March.

"We're 0-6 and I think he and some other people, too, we need more. [They] need to be better," Richards said.

Wennberg (concussion) has not played since being checked by Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers in the first period of the season opener on Oct. 9.

"The last couple of days I was preparing to see how the body reacts," Wennberg said. "It's been a good couple of days."

The Islanders (3-1-1) have won three straight.

Goaltender Jaroslav Halak is expected to start his second straight game after making his season debut Saturday with 22 saves in a 6-3 win against the San Jose Sharks. He missed most of the preseason and the first four games of the regular season with an upper-body injury.

The Islanders erased three one-goal deficits against the Sharks and have been outscored 4-1 in the first period this season but have a 16-11 edge in the second and third periods and overtime.

"Having pretty much the same team as last year we all know each other very well and have the chemistry," New York defenseman Nick Leddy said. "If we can get off to a good start and have a good finish, that's obviously the best of both worlds."

The Blue Jackets may not have a point this season, but the Islanders know they are dangerous.

"I'm not looking at their record at all," Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "For me as a defenseman, they have so many forwards that can really hurt you."

Here are the projected lineups:


Anders Lee - John Tavares - Ryan Strome

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo

Nikolay Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Brock Nelson

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy - Johnny Boychuk

Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic

Thomas Hickey - Marek Zidlicky

Jaroslav Halak

Thomas Greiss

Injured: Eric Boulton (lower body)

Scratched: Brian Strait, Steve Bernier, Jean-Francois Berube


Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Nick Foligno

Scott HartnellAlexander WennbergBrandon Saad

Matt CalvertBrandon DubinskyDavid Clarkson

Rene Bourque - Gregory CampbellWilliam Karlsson

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Fedor Tyutin - Dalton Prout

Cody Goloubef - Ryan Murray

Curtis McElhinney

Sergei Bobrovsky

Injured: None

Scratched: Kevin Connauton, Cam Atkinson, Jared Boll

Status report: The Blue Jackets activated Wennberg from injured reserve and returned Rychel to Lake Erie of the American Hockey League. Rychel was recalled Friday morning, sent back that afternoon then rejoined the Blue Jackets on Saturday and played in Chicago.

Who's hot: Tavares has two goals and five assists in the past three games. … Okposo has six points (two goals, four assists) in three games. … Although the Blue Jackets did not score on the power play for the first time this season vs. Chicago, they are tied for second in the NHL with six power-play goals and are tied for sixth in power-play percentage (6-for-23; 26.1 percent).

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