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Blue Jackets stick with McElhinney in back-to-back

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Curtis McElhinney will start on consecutive nights when the Columbus Blue Jackets host the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

He has stopped 56 of 58 shots since replacing injured starter Sergei Bobrovsky in the third period of a 1-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 3. McElhinney then beat the Minnesota Wild 4-0 on Friday but lost 2-1 on Monday at the Pittsburgh Penguins when he made 28 saves.

Still, coach Todd Richards opted to stay with McElhinney instead of going with Mike McKenna, who was called up from the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League last week after Bobrovsky was diagnosed with a groin strain that will keep him out least a month.

Richards also said he will keep the same lineup as the one used at Pittsburgh but hopes to see more scoring chances generated to support McElhinney.

"We had offensive-zone time but we've got to get something done, winning the one-on-one battle, getting the puck to the net and going to the net with a little more determination," Richards said. "We're going to have to play a good, hard, patient game. It might come down to one of those 1-0 games and who makes the first mistake."

The Blue Jackets (12-15-3) will face a Devils team that hasn't played since defeating the New York Rangers 4-3 in overtime Saturday, and fatigue could be a factor.

"We've been in that situation before," New Jersey right wing Steve Bernier said. "We're the team that's played the most back-to-back games in the League so we know how they feel.

"At the same time we haven't played the last two days so we may not have as much energy at the beginning, so we need to focus on our first five minutes."

Blue Jackets left wing Mark Letestu said the best way to combat a possible energy advantage for the Devils is to dictate the play.

"It seems much easier to play with the puck," he said. "When you're in the offensive zone you're not spending as much energy chasing. It's easier for our defensemen. They can stay at the blue line and put pucks on the net. Anytime you can possess the puck it does conserve energy."

Martin Brodeur will make his second straight start in goal for the Devils (12-13-6) and coach Peter DeBoer will keep rookie Reid Boucher on the top line with Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr as he did against the Rangers.

"I like that they think offensively on the same level," DeBoer said. "Reid has an offensive mind. He can make a play. He set up [Jagr] with a really nice play in New York."

Boucher, a fourth-round pick (No. 99) in the 2011 NHL Draft, has one assist in three games since his promotion from the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League and has impressed his veteran linemates with his play.

"They see his offensive potential and they're willing to work with him," DeBoer said.

To make room for Boucher, Dainius Zubrus has joined Patrik Elias and Damien Brunner on the second line.

"We've been trying to create multiple lines that can create not only production but offensive-zone time," DeBoer said. "[Zubrus is] a guy that can help make a line go."

Here are the projected lineups for the Devils and Blue Jackets:


Reid Boucher - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - Damien Brunner

Steve Bernier - Adam Henrique - Michael Ryder

Tim Sestito - Andrei Loktionov - Cam Janssen

Andy Greene - Mark Fayne

Eric Gelinas - Jon Merrill

Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky

Martin Brodeur

Cory Schneider

Scratched: Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson, Peter Harrold

Injured: Adam Larsson (lower body), Bryce Salvador (foot), Ryan Carter (lower body), Stephen Gionta (ankle), Ryane Clowe (head)


Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - RJ Umberger

Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Boone Jenner - Artem Anisimov - Blake Comeau

Derek MacKenzie - Mark Letestu - Corey Tropp

Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson

Ryan Murray - David Savard

Nikita Nikitin - Dalton Prout

Curtis McElhinney

Mike McKenna

Scratched: Tim Erixon, Jack Skille

Injured: Jared Boll (foot), Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), Marian Gaborik (knee), Nathan Horton (shoulder), James Wisniewski (upper body)

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