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Blue Jackets look to bounce back against Panthers

by Brian Hunter

PANTHERS (22-30-7) at BLUE JACKETS (29-25-5)


Last 10: Florida 3-7-0; Columbus 4-5-1

Season series: This is the second of three games between the Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets. Ryan Johansen and Boone Jenner each had a goal and an assist, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 saves in Columbus' 4-1 win at Nationwide Arena on Feb. 1.

Big story: On the fringes of the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Blue Jackets are trying to bounce back from a slow start that doomed them in a 5-2 loss against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, their first game out of the Olympic break.

"It's concerning," coach Todd Richards said in the Columbus Dispatch. "You have 24 games and you're right in the thick of it, but if you drop two or three it takes you right out of the thick of things. We need to feel the urgency.

"That game against Florida is a huge game."

Team Scope:

Panthers: This is the start of a three-game road trip for Florida, which showed Thursday it has plenty of battle left in the tank but couldn't pull it out in the end against the Washington Capitals. The Panthers erased a pair of two-goal deficits only to suffer a 5-4 defeat.

Coach Peter Horachek saw some personnel decisions pay dividends, as Brad Boyes scored game-tying goals in the second and third period playing on a line that features Nick Bjugstad at center. Drew Shore, just called up from San Antonio of the American Hockey League, scored his fifth goal in 18 NHL games this season.

"We've been able to come back in the past this season, come back in the third. But we talk about a 60-minute game," Boyes said. "The resilience is there, but we give teams opportunities. We give them a lot. We gave up power plays, turnovers. If we cut those out, we're better off."

Blue Jackets: When they acquired forward Marian Gaborik at the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline, Columbus got a potential game-breaker. Unfortunately, Gaborik's penchant for getting injured has cropped up again this season; he's missed 40 games due to a knee injury and a broken collarbone.

Back in the lineup Thursday, Gaborik's goal in the second period brought the Blue Jackets to within 3-2 against the Devils, but they couldn't overcome giving up three goals in the first nine minutes of the game. Columbus took two early penalties that resulted in New Jersey goals.

"I hope it is just rust and not anything more," forward Brandon Dubinsky said in the Columbus Dispatch. "I really do. But we can't use that as an excuse. (The Devils) had the same break we did. I thought we had six good days of practice and a good day of fitness testing. We just have to execute better."

Who's hot: Boyes has a team-leading 17 goals for the Panthers; his next will be his most for a season since he scored 33 in 2008-09 for the St. Louis Blues. … Blue Jackets forward Artem Anisimov had a goal and an assist Thursday.

Injury report: Florida forwards Aleksander Barkov (knee) and Tomas Kopecky (concussion) are on injured reserve. … Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin (ankle) and forward Jared Boll (ankle) are on injured reserve.

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