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Blue Jackets look to rebound vs. depleted Islanders

by John Kreiser

BLUE JACKETS (36-28-6) at ISLANDERS (26-35-9)


Last 10: Columbus 6-3-1; New York 4-5-1

Season series: The Columbus Blue Jackets are 2-0-0 this season against the New York Islanders, including a 3-2 shootout win at Nassau Coliseum on Oct. 5. The teams meet again in Columbus in two weeks.

Big story: In less than 24 hours, the Blue Jackets went from third place in the Metropolitan Division to being on the outside looking in at the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That's what one loss can do at this time of the season in a tight playoff scramble. Columbus has a chance to regain a playoff position by beating the Islanders, who aren't going to the postseason and are missing a number of key players.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: The packed house at Nationwide Arena was ecstatic when Nick Foligno's goal early in the third period Friday night gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead against the New York Rangers in a game that would leave the winner with a two-point lead in the race for the Metropolitan Division's final guaranteed playoff spot. But Derek Stepan's goal less than a minute later tied the game and quieted the building, and the Rangers scored twice more for a 3-1 win.

The Blue Jackets started Saturday owning the second wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference; that disappeared when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Minnesota Wild to jump into the playoff position.

Columbus held an optional skate Saturday before flying to Long Island, and coach Todd Richards said he has to make sure the Blue Jackets don't have a hangover after the loss Friday night as they prepare for their fourth game in six days.

"It's a little bit [of a concern], just with us being a young team," Richards told the Columbus Dispatch. "To me, being ready to start the game on time is huge. A day game throws everything out of whack, it messes up routines. You're getting up and going to the rink to play, when maybe it feels like you're going in for a morning skate."

RJ Umberger, who was a healthy scratch for the past two games, will return to the lineup.

Islanders: New York comes into this game well-rested, if nothing else. The Islanders have been off since a 6-0 home loss to the Wild on Tuesday. But the time off didn't help them health-wise. First-line right wing Kyle Okposo left practice Friday with a lower-body injury and didn't practice Saturday. However, coach Jack Capuano said Sunday that Okposo will be in the lineup.

Who's hot: Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen scored the game-winning goal against the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday and leads the team with 27. … Okposo has eight points in his past five games.

Injury report: Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray (knee) is out. … Okposo is questionable, but the Islanders are sure to be without Tavares (knee), forward Michael Grabner (concussion) and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky (upper body).

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