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Blue Jackets set sights on Presidents' Trophy

Columbus after home-ice advantage throughout Stanley Cup Playoffs after qualifying Sunday

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Columbus Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky wants much more than just a berth into the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Blue Jackets (47-18-6), who qualified for the playoffs for the third time in their history after a 4-1 win at the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, now have their sights set on their first Presidents' Trophy.

Columbus has 11 regular-season games remaining, five at home and six on the road, and are tied with the Washington Capitals for first place in the NHL with 100 points. The Presidents' Trophy winner is guaranteed home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

"Home ice in the playoffs is big," Dubinsky said. "I've been in quite a few Game 7's, some on the road and some at home when I was with the New York Rangers, and those road games are hard to win. It's good to start a series at home; it enables you an opportunity to put yourself in a good position. Every time you play in front of your fans, you get that extra opportunity."

While winning the Presidents' Trophy is certainly something the players would take great pride in accomplishing, coach John Tortorella feels the Blue Jackets need to be steadfast in their approach down the stretch. After all, that's what got them to this point.

Video: CBJ@NJD: Dubinsky picks the corner on a penalty shot

A 16-game winning streak from Nov. 25 through Jan. 3 helped, but the Blue Jackets have proven steady all season. They remain the only NHL team not to lose three straight games.

"One of the greatest things [the players] accomplished this year is the process of keeping a flat line, and not getting too low or too high at any point," Tortorella said. "They're keeping it in perspective. This is just the start of it. I feel real good about that and they should too.

"We practice the way we're supposed to practice; prepare the way we're supposed to prepare. I don't want to minimize what they've accomplished to this point, but want them to just keep their wits about them. We need to stay on top of things."

Players aren't fazed by the fact eight of 31 Presidents' Trophy winners in NHL history have gone on to win the Stanley Cup. The objective, according to captain Nick Foligno, is to win every game anyway so if accumulating the most points is the end result, why not?

"I'd be lying if we're not going to try [to win the Presidents' Trophy]," Foligno said. "We're going to try and win every game. The Presidents' Trophy isn't our sole focus but it's pretty special to be in consideration for winning it. That's the bigger feather in the cap; that you're having a year where the Trophy is within reach.

"That's a credit to every guy in this room."

Tortorella has reached 100 points with three different teams, including the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003-04 and Rangers in 2011-12. Devils coach John Hynes, an assistant under Tortorella for Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, isn't surprised by how the veteran mentor has gotten the most of his group this season.

Video: CBJ@NJD: Jenner banks in SHG off Schneider

"I think sometimes his interpersonal skills are a little bit underrated as far as being able to meet with people individually and getting things out of them," Hynes said. "He's very clear in what his expectations are, he's not afraid of confrontation. He's comfortable being uncomfortable and that's a big part of coaching at this level."

In a season of firsts for the Blue Jackets, including most wins and points in Columbus history, perhaps a Presidents' Trophy is also on the horizon.

"You have to credit [Tortorella] and the older guys in here who have pulled the younger guys along and younger guys giving us energy, so it's all good things," Foligno said. "We're excited about the opportunity we've given ourselves but we know we have to push even harder to get the end result."

Tortorella said winning the Presidents' Trophy isn't something he is concerned about.

Video: CBJ@NJD: Bobrovsky denies Devils with two quick saves

"I don't want to speak for the organization because there's a lot of people who worked hard here, but I'm not going to get too wrapped up in it because there's way too much coming up here and it's going to come very quickly," he said. "The amount of readiness you need when you get into the [playoff] stuff is important so I'm not getting into the [Presidents' Trophy] discussion.

"I just want us to be consistent as we go through our remaining games."

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