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Jets win 5th straight; Blue Jackets lose Bobrovsky

by Patrick Williams /

WINNIPEG -- The Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets wanted to send themselves into All-Star Weekend with a win Wednesday. Only the Jets succeeded.

Winnipeg enters the break with a five-game winning streak after a 4-0 victory against Columbus at MTS Centre. The Jets are 6-0-1 in their past seven games.

Rookie goaltender Michael Hutchinson made 29 saves for his second NHL shutout. Hutchinson is 14-4-2 with a 1.90 goals-against average that ranks third in the League. His .935 save percentage is second.

"How can you just not be enamored by the way he has played," Jets coach Paul Maurice said of Hutchinson, who has settled into a rotation with Ondrej Pavelec after beginning the season as a backup.

The Blue Jackets were shut out for the fourth time this season and go into the break unsure about the health of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The All-Star selection left the game 7:44 into the second period with a lower-body injury. He was replaced by Curtis McElhinney.

Bobrovsky, who allowed a goal on each of the first two shots he faced, stretched his left pad to make a save and remained on the ice. He needed assistance leaving the ice, putting no weight on his right leg, and went directly to the dressing room. Bobrovsky is one of three players named to represent the Blue Jackets in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Game in Columbus. Forwards Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen are the others.

Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said Bobrovsky is day-to-day and that he did not know whether the goaltender could participate in All-Star Weekend.

"[Bobrovsky] is the backbone of this team," Johansen said. "Hopefully he can get back on the ice as soon as possible. It sinks all of the energy out of the bench. The most important player on the team, and he goes down with an injury."

The Blue Jackets (20-22-3) also lost left wing Jeremy Morin with an upper-body injury in the second period. If Bobrovsky and Morin are out of the lineup after the break, they would join a list of injured Columbus players that includes defenseman Ryan Murray, plus forwards Artem Anisimov, Boone Jenner and Nathan Horton.

"That is kind of the normal way the season has been going," Richards said. "Close to getting a couple of guys back, and two guys leave the game."

Bobrovsky made nine saves in his eighth start in the past 10 games. McElhinney made 16 saves in relief.

Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn scored for the Jets (26-14-8).

One shot and 68 seconds were all the Jets needed to take a 1-0 lead. Andrew Ladd reached Wheeler with a pass into the slot that Wheeler backhanded past Bobrovsky for his 13th goal.

"I was really happy with the way we came out," Wheeler said. "We've been ready to play all [season]."

Kane followed at 6:06 with his 10th, a right-side shot from inside the blue line that slipped through Bobrovsky's pads.

"It was the performance that we were looking for," Hutchinson said. "We came out with the start we were looking for."

"It's always nice when your team gets a lead, especially to get a two-goal lead pretty early in the game. It lets you loosen up. I think the whole team kind of loosens up and knows that we're in for a good night. You can just kind of focus on doing your job and playing within the system, and we [can] be pretty successful."

Kane has a goal in four of his past six games and scored three goals in the two games between the teams this season. He is the seventh Winnipeg player to reach double figures in goals.

"I was disappointed with the goals," Richards said. "The second one that went in, you almost never see that. That was a rarity. I liked the way we were playing. I still think we responded after that, even in the second [period]."

But the Blue Jackets went down 3-0 moments after Winnipeg killed a Columbus power play early in the second period. Slater tipped defenseman Jay Harrison's long left-point slap shot through a screen past Bobrovsky at 4:45 for his second goal of the season.

After McElhinney replaced Bobrovsky, Thorburn's fourth goal made it 4-0 at 14:10 of the second period.

The Blue Jackets and Jets play a similar style, based around speed and using their size to dictate play. Columbus and Winnipeg are third and fourth in hits in the League, respectively, but the Jets dictated the pace through much of the game.

"They were faster than us," Columbus left wing Scott Hartnell said. "They were more physical than us."

Each team heads into the five-day break facing a hectic final two months of the season. The Jets hold the Western Conference's first Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card spot. They have 60 points and are two points behind the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues in the Central Division standings.

"[The break] is a good opportunity," Wheeler said. "Just come back recharged. I think that is the biggest key. [The break is] definitely needed. [The schedule] takes it out of you. It wears you out mentally and physically."

The Jets resume play Jan. 27 at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"There are more challenges coming," Maurice said. "We have a heavy schedule in terms of the quality of opponent coming up.

"[We] want to stay off that roller coaster at this time of the [season] because there will be more pressure in these games, more scrutiny and everything amps up. You want to put yourself into a position where you go into these breaks where you really get to use the rest and feel good about yourself because we're going to have to marshal all of our energy for these next phases of the season."

Columbus is 14 points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The break will allow the Blue Jackets some time to heal some of the key injuries in hopes of mounting a late-season playoff push, beginning Tuesday when they host the Washington Capitals.

"We're professionals," Richards said. "Be prepared, get away for four days, spend time with family and friends, just get away from the game. Enjoy other things. But when we come back, be prepared for a good practice, and on Tuesday we lace them up against Washington.

"You have to be able to move on. You have to take some things from the game, good or bad, try to improve your game. All we can do now is start getting ready for Washington."

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