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Blue Jackets return home to face streaking Hurricanes

by Brian Hunter

HURRICANES (19-16-9) at BLUE JACKETS (19-20-4)


Last 10: Carolina 5-3-2; Columbus 5-5-0

Season series: This is the second of five games between the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets. Ryan Johansen and Jack Skille scored 1:28 apart late in the third period to help Columbus rally for a 4-3 win in Raleigh on Dec. 23. Hurricanes left wing Jeff Skinner scored twice in defeat.

Big story: Each team has survived without its No. 1 goaltender for periods of time this season. Cam Ward is currently out on his second stint on injured reserve, but Carolina still has Anton Khudobin and Justin Peters to rely on. Columbus, meanwhile, just got reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky back after a one-month layoff. He made the difference in a 4-3 shootout win at the New York Rangers on Monday.

Team Scope:

Hurricanes: Peters put together a 4-0-1 stretch in November when both Ward and Khudobin were sidelined, and now it's the Kazakhstan native Khudobin who's carrying Carolina, winners of a season-high five in a row. He improved to 6-0-0 on the season with a 6-1 win Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs and has given up seven goals in four starts since coming off IR.

Depth scoring has played an important part in the Hurricanes' roll, especially with captain Eric Staal out. Skinner continued his tear Thursday, but Zach Boychuk and John-Michael Liles each scored his first goal of the season and rookie Elias Lindholm, just recalled, added a power-play goal.

"I think there's a great atmosphere in the room, a really good belief," Liles, acquired from Toronto on Jan. 1, told NHL Network. "I've only been here a short amount of time, but the guys in the room, it's a great core in place, guys are believing in the system and playing for each other, and it's leading to some wins."

Blue Jackets: This is the first game at Nationwide Arena since Dec. 29 for Columbus, which enters off a split of a four-game road trip. The Blue Jackets will get forward Matt Calvert back in the lineup after he missed the past seven games with an upper-body injury.

Bobrovsky turned in a 40-save performance in his return from a groin injury and also denied the Rangers on a pair of shootout attempts in the win Monday. He was named to Russia's roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Tuesday, but he made it clear his focus for the next month will remain squarely on helping the Blue Jackets push for a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth.

"On my chest is Columbus. I play for this team, so I give my best," Bobrovsky said in the Columbus Dispatch. "We have goals, we have purpose, right here and right now. Nobody cares about the Olympics (now). That's the way it has to be."

Who's hot: Skinner has seven goals and five assists during a six-game point streak for the Hurricanes. He has nine goals in his past eight games. Jordan Staal had a shorthanded goal and three assists Thursday, and Lindholm finished with a three-point night. … Blue Jackets forwards Brandon Dubinsky and James Wisniewski each had a goal and an assist in the win against the Rangers.

Injury report: Eric Staal (lower body) has missed the past two games for Carolina. Ward (lower body) and forwards Riley Nash (lower body) and Jiri Tlusty (appendectomy) are on injured reserve. … Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin (lower body) is day-to-day. Skille (upper body) and fellow forwards Blake Comeau (knee), Cody Bass (hand), Jared Boll (foot) and Marian Gaborik (collarbone) are on IR.

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