SABRES (23-49-8) AT BLUE JACKETS (40-35-5)
TV: MSG-B, BELL TV, FS-O
COLUMBUS – The Columbus Blue Jackets believe their fans deserve something special in the home finale against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday
Columbus (40-35-5) will not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs but nonetheless could match two franchise records with a victory and somewhat make amends for having the fourth-worst home mark (18-20-2) in the NHL.
The Blue Jackets are 10-0-1 in the past 11 games and can tie their longest points streak of 12 games set Feb. 26 to March 22, 2013. They also can equal the record six-game home win streak from Dec. 26, 2007, to Jan. 15, 2008.
“We owe it all to the fans,” Columbus right wing Cam Atkinson said. “It’s been a rough year for us as and them as well. As of late we’ve been pretty hot so it would be nice to end with a bang.”
One of the Blue Jackets’ losses in Nationwide Arena was 4-2 to the Sabres on Feb. 24.
“We got some lucky goals and snuck out of here with a victory,” Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said.
The win came against an injury-depleted lineup. Now that the Blue Jackets are at their healthiest, they’ve gone 13-1-1 since March 8.
“The fans have been great. They’ve been supportive,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “There’s times we’ve been booed here at home but we deserved to be booed. But over this last stretch and the way we’ve finished, you can feel the energy from the crowd. They’ve appreciated the way the team’s played, appreciated the effort, sometimes despite the scores.”
The irony is the Blue Jackets this season set franchise records for away wins (22) and consecutive road wins (eight).
It’s not a stretch to say if they had one more home win a month they might still be in the postseason picture.
“Absolutely,” Columbus right wing Nick Foligno said. “You always look at where things went wrong and what you could’ve done better. Saying that, you have to be careful because if you dwell on the past you forget about what’s going on in the present and the future. We’re doing a lot of good things here.”
Saturday, Columbus ends the season at the New York Islanders while the Sabres finish by hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Buffalo (23-49-8) can clinch the worst record in the League with a regulation loss Friday.
“Two games to play and you have to be mentally and physically ready to go for them,” said Buffalo left wing Marcus Foligno, younger brother of Nick. “If you don’t prepare yourself, that’s when things go wrong.”
Here are the probable lineups:
Matt Moulson - Johan Larsson - Tyler Ennis
Marcus Foligno - Mikhail Grigorenko - Brian Gionta
Cody Hodgson - Philip Varone - Zac Dalpe
Nicolas Deslauriers - Matt Ellis - Patrick Kaleta
Tyson Strachan - Zach Bogosian
Andrej Meszaros - Rasmus Ristolainen
Nikita Zadorov - Chad Ruhwedel
Injured: Mike Weber (upper body), Jerry D'Amigo (facial surgery), Zemgus Girgensons (foot), Josh Gorges (lower body), Chad Johnson (lower body), Cody McCormick (blood clots), Evander Kane (shoulder), Andre Benoit (upper body)
Boone Jenner - Ryan Johansen - Cam Atkinson
Brandon Dubinsky - Artem Anisimov - Nick Foligno
Scott Hartnell - Alexander Wennberg - Marko Dano
Matt Calvert - Mark Letestu – Jeremy Morin
Jack Johnson - David Savard
Ryan Murray - Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin - Dalton Prout
Scratched: Corey Tropp, Jared Boll, Kevin Connauton, Justin Falk
Injured: David Clarkson (oblique), Jack Skille (shoulder), Rene Bourque (back)
Status report: The Sabres recalled defenseman Chad Ruhwedel from Rochester of the American Hockey League for the second time this season. He had one assist and a plus-2 rating in two games in March for the Sabres… Tyutin returns after missing the past two games with an injury. He replaces Falk.
Who’s hot: Dubinsky has three goals and six assists in a six-game points streak. Columbus has scored 45 goals in the past 11 games… Meszaros has four goals and an assist in the past six games.