PANTHERS (29-36-11) at BLUE JACKETS (33-31-11)
TV: FS-F (HD), FS-O (HD)
Florida 3-5-2; Columbus 2-5-3
Second and final meeting of the season. Columbus earned a 3-2 victory in Florida on Jan. 19 with RJ Umberger
scoring a power-play goal in the final minute of overtime. Antoine Vermette
had forced the extra period for the Blue Jackets with a goal in the last minute of regulation.
Both teams have been goal-starved of late. Columbus and Florida have each been blanked twice in their last four games. On Sunday, the Blue Jackets managed just an Umberger goal in the third period of a 4-1 loss to Vancouver, while the Panthers were also held to a single tally and fell 2-1 to Pittsburgh in a shootout.
Back tightness forced starting goalie Tomas Vokoun out of the game against Pittsburgh after regulation. Scott Clemmensen
maintained the 1-1 deadlock for Florida by making four saves in overtime, but was beaten by Alex Kovalev and James Neal in the penalty-shot tiebreaker. The Panthers got a goal in regulation from Ryan Carter
and coach Peter DeBoer was pleased with an overall effort that saw them pepper Marc-Andre Fleury with 38 shots.
"That's as good a road game as we can play as a group," he said. "I thought we limited their opportunities. We got shots … but our fourth line gets us a goal and we can't find a way to find another one."
Offense has been at a premium for Columbus particularly on home ice, with the Blue Jackets managing just that Umberger goal Sunday in their last three games at Nationwide Arena. On the plus side, they played the NHL's top team extremely tough for more than two periods, as the score was just 1-0 heading into the third before the Canucks pulled away. They finished with 40 shots, but were denied on all but one by Vancouver backup Corey Schneider.
"We just couldn't score, couldn't bury it," Umberger said. "We peppered them with shots from everywhere. We had a lot of rebounds. It's frustrating when you get those chances and don't score."
Umberger has 3 goals in as many games for the Blue Jackets, and is just two off his career-high of 26 set during the 2008-09 season.
Vokoun is day-to-day for Florida, which also has forward Scott Timmins
on injured reserve with a concussion. … Columbus was missing forward Ethan Moreau (bruised foot) and defensemen Anton Stralman (knee) and Grant Clitsome
(knee) against Vancouver. They're day-to-day. Forwards Chris Clark, Andrew Murray and Kristian Huselius
are all out with lower-body injuries.
Two days after being struck in the throat by a puck against the Sabres and having to go to the hospital, Panthers forward David Booth
played over 20 minutes and recorded six shots against the Penguins. … An 0-for-5 effort on the power play Sunday left the Blue Jackets empty in 30 straight opportunities with the man advantage over their last nine games.
With a strong finish, the Blue Jackets can still ensure a points percentage of better than .500 for this season, even if the franchise's second-ever playoff berth is now out of reach. The Panthers, meanwhile, are trying to fend off the Senators, who are one point back, to stay out of the Eastern Conference basement.