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Blue Jackets go for season sweep of Panthers

by Sean McCullen

BLUE JACKETS (42-32-7) at PANTHERS (29-44-8)


Last 10: Columbus 6-3-1; Florida 3-7-0

Season series: This is the third and final game. The Columbus Blue Jackets have won the first two games against the Florida Panthers by a combined score of 10-4.

Big story: With the Philadelphia Flyers visiting the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon, the Blue Jackets will know whether a win or extra-time loss will allow them to move into third place in the Metropolitan Division by the time they take the ice at BB&T Center. The Blue Jackets and Flyers enter Saturday even at 91 points, but Philadelphia has one game in hand and holds the tiebreaker with one more win in regulation and overtime (38-37).

The team that finishes third in the Metropolitan will face the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. New York has clinched home-ice advantage in that series.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: Columbus failed to move up in the Metropolitan standings when it lost 3-2 on Friday to the Tampa Bay Lightning, which received 36 saves from goalie Kristers Gudlevskis in his NHL debut.

''We just have to regroup,'' forward Corey Tropp said. ''We just need to take care of business on our end.''

Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will start after backup Curtis McElhinney played against Tampa Bay. Bobrovsky is 4-1-0 with two shutouts in his past five starts.

Columbus announced Friday that right wing Nathan Horton is expected to miss six weeks following abdominal surgery. Horton, who signed as a free agent last summer after three seasons with the Boston Bruins, missed the first 40 games of the season following shoulder surgery. He had five goals and 14 assists in 36 regular-season games.

"It's a blow," coach Todd Richards said. "The reason why it's a blow is the potential out on the ice. [He is a] goal-scorer, big and strong. But the other thing is that he's played in big games and big moments."

Horton was a member of Boston's Stanley Cup-winning team in 2011.

Panthers: Florida beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 on Thursday for its second win in three games. Center Nick Bjugstad led the way with two goals and an assist.

"He's obviously got a bright future,"???coach Peter Horachek said of Bjugstad. "He's got the skill set. You can't teach [6-foot-6], and he can skate and has hands like that. A???couple of really big goals. The first one, the wraparound, that's something that somebody with a wingspan like that can do. And the shorty was a big goal too."

Who's hot: Columbus center Boone Jenner has three goals and two assists in his past four games, including a goal and an assist Friday. Center Mark Letestu has three goals and an assist in his past four. He snapped a 22-game goal drought when he scored April 6. … Florida right wing Brad Boyes has three goals in his past five games.

Injury report: In addition to Horton, Blue Jackets forwards RJ Umberger (upper body) and Nick Foligno (lower body) are out. Defenseman Nikita Nikitin (lower body) is day-to-day. … Panthers goalie Dan Ellis (illness) and forwards Scott Gomez (illness) and Krys Barch (illness) missed the game Thursday. All three are day-to-day. Barch also sat out a 5-2 loss Tuesday against the Flyers. Defensemen Tom Gilbert (groin) and Alex Petrovic (upper body) and forwards Tomas Kopecky (upper body) and Aleksander Barkov (knee) are out.

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