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Avalanche at Blue Jackets preview

Colorado 5-1-0 in past six; Columbus goalie Merzlikins eyes third straight shutout

by Craig Merz / Independent Correspondent

AVALANCHE (30-16-6) at BLUE JACKETS (30-16-9)

7 p.m. ET; FS-O, ALT2, NHL.TV


The Game

Elvis Merzlikins seeks his third straight shutout and ninth consecutive win when the Columbus Blue Jackets host the Colorado Avalanche at Nationwide Arena on Saturday.

Merzlikins, who is expected to start, has won his past eight starts, the longest winning streak by a rookie goalie in the NHL this season, with a 1.00 goals-against average, .967 save percentage and five shutouts. He has not allowed a goal in each of his past two starts, against the Florida Panthers (1-0 win) on Tuesday and the Detroit Red Wings (2-0 win) on Friday.

The Blue Jackets, who are one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division, look to win their fourth game in a row. They are 9-0-1 in their past 10 games and 19-2-5 in their previous 26 games.

The Avalanche, who are in second place in the Central Division, are 5-1-0 in their past six games following a four-game winless streak (0-2-2).


Players to watch

Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in a six-game point streak.

Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski leads the NHL at his position with 17 goals.


They said it

"What we do best is score goals. We're leading the League in goals per game (3.69), and we're coming up against one of the best defensive teams (2.42 goals against per game, second in the NHL) so it's interesting to get a matchup like this." -- Avalanche forward Matt Calvert

"I think [the players] feel everybody is contributing and we're finding a way to get points. I think that enhances the tightness, the camaraderie and the belief in how we're trying to do things." -- Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella


Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel Landeskog -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen

Valeri Nichushkin -- Nazem Kadri -- Andre Burakovsky

Matt Calvert -- J.T. Compher -- Joonas Donskoi

Matt Nieto -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Tyson Jost

Ryan Graves -- Cale Makar

Samuel Girard -- Erik Johnson

Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole

Philipp Grubauer

Pavel Francouz

Scratched: Vladislav Kamenev, Calle Rosen

Injured: Colin Wilson (lower body)


Blue Jackets projected lineup

Nick Foligno -- Pierre-Luc Dubois -- Oliver Bjorkstrand

Gustav Nyquist -- Boone Jenner -- Cam Atkinson

Sonny Milano -- Riley Nash -- Emil Bemstrom

Eric Robinson -- Ryan MacInnis -- Nathan Gerbe

Zach Werenski -- Seth Jones

Vladislav Gavrikov -- David Savard

Scott Harrington -- Markus Nutivaara

Elvis Merzlikins

Matiss Kivlenieks

Scratched: Andrew Peeke, Kevin Stenlund

Injured: Brandon Dubinsky (wrist), Josh Anderson (shoulder), Ryan Murray (lower body), Alexandre Texier (back), Dean Kukan (knee), Alexander Wennberg (upper body), Joonas Korpisalo (knee)


Status report

The Avalanche will dress the same lineup from a 4-1 win at the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. … The Blue Jackets did not hold a morning skate.


Stat pack

Rantanen has six points (two goals, four assists) in a five-game point streak. … Calvert is one point shy of 200 in the NHL. … This is the first time the Blue Jackets have had double-digit point streaks in the same season. They had a season-long 12-game streak (8-0-4) from Dec. 9-Jan. 2. … The Blue Jackets have won six straight home games, four by shutout, and are 10-1-1 in their past 12 games at Nationwide Arena.

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