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Blue Jackets begin crucial stretch against Rangers

by Tal Pinchevsky

NEW YORK -- The Columbus Blue Jackets received some great news Monday. Franchise goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will start against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden after missing 14 games with a groin injury. And his return couldn't have come at a better time.

Columbus sits seventh in the Metropolitan Division with 44 points but trail the third-place Washington Capitals by six points and the fifth-place Rangers by four. Bobrovsky returns at the beginning of a crucial stretch that will see Columbus play four of its next five games against divisional opponents and nine of its next 13 at home.

"This would be huge. These are the games you're going to look back at the end of the season. We know that," said forward Nick Foligno, who couldn't help but smile when asked about Bobrovsky's return. "It's great. He's worked hard to get himself healthy. He's a big part of this team, a great goaltender. We're excited to get him back. It's a big boost for our team."

The Blue Jackets should have some confidence heading into their game at MSG. The last time they played there on Dec. 12, they raced out to a 3-0 first-period lead and chased Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist before winning 4-2 despite playing without Bobrovsky and losing starter Curtis McElhinney to an injury. That one-sided win will likely motivate both teams heading into the game Monday.

"It's a divisional game and we're looking up at them in the standings," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We were just here and had some success. I think that's something we can build off of, but they're probably using that for motivation."

The Rangers' lineup will remain unchanged after the team scored a season-high seven goals in a 7-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. The only difference will be Lundqvist starting in net after Cam Talbot stopped 25 shots in Toronto.

Daniel Carcillo, who was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, will not play. The last time Carcillo played at the Garden, he scored the winning goal as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers in a 4-2 win on Feb. 20, 2011.

The Rangers went 3-4-2 on a recent nine-game homestand and return to MSG after going 3-2-0 on a five-game road trip that ended in Toronto.

"We've got to get some traction at home and start putting some wins together [at home]," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said after the team skated at their practice facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. "I thought we had a good road trip. We kept it simple. Now we just need to bring that home."

Here are the projected lineups for the Blue Jackets and Rangers:


Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - RJ Umberger

Artem Anisimov - Brandon Dubinsky - Nathan Horton

Blake Comeau - Mark Letestu - Corey Tropp

Ryan Craig - Boone Jenner - Cam Atkinson

Jack Johnson - Fedor Tyutin

James Wisniewski - Ryan Murray

Nikita Nikitin - David Savard

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Dalton Prout, Derek MacKenzie (suspended)

Injured: Matt Calvert (upper body), Marian Gaborik (collarbone), Cody Bass (thumb), Jared Boll (foot), Jack Skille (upper body)


Rick Nash - Derek Stepan - Chris Kreider

Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan

J.T. Miller - Dominic Moore - Brian Boyle

Dan Girardi - Ryan McDonagh

Anton Stralman - Marc Staal

Michael Del Zotto - John Moore

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Daniel Carcillo, Justin Falk

Injured: Derek Dorsett (broken fibula)

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