COLUMBUS -- Columbus Blue Jackets center Brandon Dubinsky returns from injury Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning hoping to stabilize a team that hasn't won two games in a row since late October.
"It's nice to get back in the lineup and try to help this team get back on track and find some consistency and string some wins together," he said.
Coming off a 3-1 defeat Saturday at the Boston Bruins, the Blue Jackets have alternated regulation losses and wins the past eight games and have gone 17 games without consecutive victories since winning three straight from Oct. 22-25.
The Blue Jackets (10-14-3) are seventh in the Metropolitan Division and 13th of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference.
"We've got to start finding a way to climb the standings," Dubinsky said. "It's not early in the season anymore. People forget we're about a third of the way through. We've got to put our foot on the gas here."
Dubinsky was injured Nov. 19 at the Edmonton Oilers when he slammed skates-first into the boards. He considers himself somewhat lucky that he missed only six games with a leg injury.
"Looking at it, it could have been a lot worse so I'm thankful for that," he said. "[But] you never want to miss any time, so it was tough watching."
Columbus coach Todd Richards is happy to have Dubinsky and his 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 21 games.
"He's a big piece, an impact player for us," Richards said. "Aside from his points, what we're getting back is his energy and his work ethic. He plays with that passion, that tenacity we're looking for that I think is a big part of our identity but is missing sometimes."
Dubinsky will skate with Matt Calvert on the left and Blake Comeau on the right.
"He brings a lot of energy, a lot of grit, a lot of character to the lineup," Calvert said of Dubinsky. "He's a real on-ice leader. You can see that by the way he plays."
The Lightning (16-9-1) have had to deal with injuries as well, first and foremost losing star Steven Stamkos to a broken tibia Nov. 11 at the Boston Bruins. Stamkos was tied for first in points (23) with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and goals (14) with Alexander Steen of the St. Louis Blues at the time of the injury.
Tampa Bay is 4-4-1 without Stamkos and has won two of three.
Coach Jon Cooper said the team can't make up Stamkos' lost offensive production so the defense must stay strong. After allowing 3.06 goals a game last season, the number is at 2.50 this season.
"We've shaved off nearly three-quarters of a goal from last year," Cooper said. "That was our goal. What I do like is we've kept status quo. We haven't been giving up more goals. That's the big key why we're having a little bit of success here since [Stamkos] went down."
Here are the projected lineups:
Teddy Purcell - Valtteri Filppula - Martin St. Louis
Nikita Kucherov - Alex Killorn - J.T. Brown
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Richard Panik
B.J. Crombeen - Nate Thompson – Dana Tyrell
Eric Brewer - Mark Barberio
Sami Salo - Victor Hedman
Matthew Carle - Andrej Sustr
Scratched: Keith Aulie
Injured: Radko Gudas (upper body), Pierre-Cedric Labrie (upper body), Brian Lee (knee), Ryan Malone (foot), Tom Pyatt (collarbone), Steven Stamkos (leg)
Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - RJ Umberger
Cam Atkinson - Artem Anisimov - Boone Jenner
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Blake Comeau
Jack Skille - Mark Letestu - Corey Tropp
Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson
Ryan Murray - James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin - Dalton Prout
Scratched: Michael Chaput, David Savard
Injured: Jared Boll (foot), Marian Gaborik (knee), Nathan Horton (shoulder), Derek MacKenzie (back)