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Streaking Blue Jackets visit Sabres

by Mike Battaglino

BLUE JACKETS (23-20-4) at SABRES (13-27-6)


Last 10: Columbus 7-3-0; Buffalo 4-3-3

Season series: The Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres complete their three games with two within a week. Columbus won 4-1 on Oct. 10; Marian Gaborik had a goal and two assists.

Big story: Columbus certainly likes when the season hits 40 games. After a 5-1 home win against the Washington Capitals on Friday, the Blue Jackets have won five in a row and six of seven since that milestone.

Last season, they won seven of eight to close the season after the 40-game mark.

"I think we can compete with anybody in the League," forward Ryan Johansen told Fox Sports Ohio. "We've had a couple hiccups through the year so far, but every team goes through that. Right now we're just taking it one game at a time and our focus moves to Buffalo. We're playing great hockey, we just have to keep it up."

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: Columbus' recent streak coincides with the debut of forward Nathan Horton, who played for the first time Jan. 2 after offseason shoulder surgery, and the return of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from a groin injury Jan. 6.

Less heralded was the return of forward Matt Calvert from an upper-body injury Jan. 10. Since he's been back, linemate Cam Atkinson has four goals in four games, and the Blue Jackets have 17.

"I think Matty's had a huge impact on Cam," coach Todd Richards said. "I think they're good friends, they get along. But I think just Matty, the way that he plays the game, it's lead by example, and that's what you want to see from really any of your players, doing the right things out on the ice. But we've talked about the value of Matty and what he does, he drags other guys into the fight and getting into games."

Sabres: Buffalo has scored three goals in back-to-back games but lost both (0-1-1), this after going six straight scoring two or fewer but winning three (3-2-1).

"It's kind of like one of those bopping things you'd see at the circle, one head keeps popping up, you pop that one down and another one pops up," coach Ted Nolan said Friday. "Sometimes we're really good defensively, then we forget about our defense and want to go offense.

"I think it's just finding that good mixture of when to go and when not to go. ... Finding that consistent play, game in, game out, whether it's offensively or defensively, putting them together, I think that's when you have a good team outing."

Forward Drew Stafford (upper body) returned to play Wednesday in the 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs after missing four games, but forward Matt D'Agostini (upper body) was injured in the first period.

"It was good to get back in. It was a little tough we lost a forward right away, so we were kind of double-shifting a couple times and we were rolling three lines," Stafford told the Sabres website Friday. "I was kind of thrown right into the fire. They're a pretty physical team so it was a pretty good test. I felt all right. Nice to have a day to recover and looking forward to having a good one tomorrow."

Who's hot: Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson has five assists in a three-game streak. Defenseman Ryan Murray has four assists in a four-game streak. Defenseman James Wisniewski and Atkinson each has six points in his past five games. Forward Mark Letestu has five points in his past four. Forward Ryan Johansen has four points in his past three. … Sabres forward Cody Hodgson has two goals and two assists since returning from injury Sunday. Forward Tyler Ennis and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff each has a three-game point streak.

Injury report: Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin (illness) did not play Friday and didn't make the trip to Buffalo. Forwards Blake Comeau (sprained knee), Jack Skille (upper body), Gaborik (broken collarbone) and Jared Boll (torn ankle tendon) are on injured reserve. … Sabres forward Marcus Foligno (undisclosed) did not play Wednesday but is OK for Saturday. D'Agostini, defenseman Henrik Tallinder (upper body), forward Kevin Porter (lower body) and forward Cody McCormick (upper body) are each at least a week away. Tallinder, Porter and McCormick practiced Friday.

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