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Blue Jackets-Hurricanes Preview

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Blue Jackets-Hurricanes Preview

GAME: Columbus Blue Jackets (9-21-0) at Carolina Hurricanes (19-9-2).

TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. EST.

A seven-home winning streak to start the season propelled the Hurricanes to the top of the Southeast Division.

Now, Carolina will be looking for back-to-back home wins for the first time in nearly six weeks as they meet the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Carolina is coming off a 5-3 win Tuesday over the Chicago Blackhawks as Craig Adams and Matt Cullen each scored twice, and the Hurricanes rallied from a two-goal deficit.

"I think everybody knew that coming back from a road trip, it was going to be pulling teeth at times to get going," said Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette. "My job is to hold them accountable for a certain standard of play that they're capable of playing. And we didn't play that way in the first period."

The Hurricanes have not won consecutive games at the RBC Center since Nov. 3-5, when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers.

Eric Staal has recorded 11 of his team-high 21 goals at home, but has just three in his last eight contests there. He had eight in his first six at the RBC Center this season.

Staal also failed to record a point against the Blackhawks, marking just the sixth time in 30 games he has been held off the scoresheet. Staal has two assists in two games against Columbus.

Columbus has been held to two goals or less in 19 games, going 1-18-0 in that span, with the only win coming in a shootout over the Minnesota Wild. The Jackets have scored a league-low 58 goals this season.

Jan Hrdina scored a power-play goal early, but Columbus fell to the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on Tuesday. The Jackets are 7-for-33 on the power play over the last five games.

Sergei Fedorov has just one goal and two assists in seven home games this season for the Jackets but has played well against the Hurricanes franchise, totaling eight goals and eight assists in 12 games. The 'Canes have yet to win a game when Fedorov scores against them.

STANDINGS: Blue Jackets - 18 points, 4th place, 26 PB, Central Division. Hurricanes - 40 points, 1st place, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Blue Jackets - Nikolai Zherdev, 8 goals; David Vyborny, Bryan Berard, 13 assists; Vyborny and Berard, 19 points; Jody Shelley, 63 PIM. Hurricanes - Staal, 21 goals, 21 assists and 42 points; Mike Commodore, 59 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 14): Blue Jackets - Power play: 12.1 percent (21 for 173), 30th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (173 for 210), 18th. Hurricanes - Power play: 18.8 percent (35 for 186), 10th. Penalty killing: 78.7 percent (133 for 169), 27th.

GOALTENDERS: Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (4-12-0, 3.20 GAA); Martin Prusek (3-3-0, 3.22). Hurricanes - Martin Gerber (13-6-1, 2 SO, 2.63); Kevin Nastiuk (no appearances).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.

LAST MEETING: March 8, 2004; Hurricanes, 4-1. At Columbus, Ohio, Ward scored two goals and Adams tallied a goal and an assist to lead the Hurricanes to victory.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jackets - 3-12-0 on the road; Hurricanes - 10-4-0 at home.


Associated Press
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