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Blue Jackets hope to snap slump against Islanders

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets took a jolt to the system Thursday in a 4-2 loss to the New York Rangers.

Coach Todd Richards and forward Brandon Dubinsky used the word "embarrassment" to describe the Blue Jackets' fifth straight loss, which dropped them to 5-10-0.

What followed the next day was a players-only meeting as well as numerous player-coaches conversations.

How that translates to the game Saturday against the New York Islanders at Nationwide Arena is anybody's guess.

"I'll be able to answer that question after the game tonight whether it was a wakeup call or not," Richards said. "The alarm went off for them based on how we practiced but the question for me is if they hit the snooze alarm or did they really wake up?"

In one regard, he is not waiting. The lines have been juggled in an attempt to break a scoring slump that has seen the Blue Jackets score three goals in the past three games, all against backup goaltenders.

Dubinsky will be on the top line with center Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson with Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik joining R.J. Umberger on the second line.

"As a team we're not scoring goals so you're going to have to keep shaking things up until goals happen," Umberger said.

After Saturday, the Blue Jackets play seven of eight on the road knowing that they have squandered an early favorable schedule with a 3-6-0 home mark.

"We have to play with more urgency," Johansen said. "We've got to find a way to get these points."

The biggest impediment has been the second period, in which Columbus has been outscored 18-9. They are even in goals in the first (10-10) and the third (16-16) periods.

"For whatever reason, whatever we've done in the first we seem to forget," Richards said. "It seems to be breakdown after breakdown and once those slides start it's tough to stop."

The Islanders (6-7-3) have lost two straight, including a 1-0 loss Thursday at the Carolina Hurricanes. That loss marked the first time New York has scored fewer than two goals in a game this season.

Islanders captain John Tavares said despite the loss they can build on their defensive effort.

"If we're playing well in our own end and doing things we need to, that's going to give us opportunities going on the transition the other way," he said. "We need to keep cycling well and stretch the defense. We need to find some areas in front. Carolina seemed to clog things up against us and that didn't allow us to get the secondary shots we wanted."

Coach Jack Capuano said Evgeni Nabokov will be in goal after Kevin Poulin stopped 23 of 24 shots against Carolina. Poulin is scheduled to start Sunday at Montreal.

Columbus will turn once again to goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 28 saves when the Blue Jackets went on the road and beat the Islanders 3-2 in a shootout Oct. 5.

"We have to get traffic in front of him and get second and third opportunities," Islanders forward Kyle Okposo said. "We just didn't have enough of them the other night [against Carolina]."

Here are the projected lineups for the Islanders and Blue Jackets on Saturday at Nationwide Arena:


Thomas Vanek - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Pierre-Marc Bouchard

Michael Grabner - Peter ReginEric Boulton

Matt Martin - Casey Cizikas - Colin McDonald

Travis Hamonic - Andrew MacDonald

Matt Carkner - Thomas Hickey

Aaron Ness - Matt Donovan

Evgeni Nabokov

Kevin Poulin

Scratched: Cal Clutterbuck, Radek Martinek, Brock Nelson

Injured: Brian Strait (upper body), Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion)


Brandon Dubinsky - Ryan JohansenCam Atkinson

R.J. Umberger - Artem Anisimov- Marian Gaborik

Derek MacKenzie - Mark LetestuBlake Comeau

Sean Collins - Michael ChaputJared Boll

Fedor TyutinJack Johnson

Nikita NikitinDalton Prout

Ryan MurrayJames Wisniewski

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: David Savard, Nick Foligno (family)

Injured: Matt Calvert (lower body), Nathan Horton (shoulder), Boone Jenner (lower body).

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