Blue Jackets-Hurricanes Preview
Even when the Columbus Blue Jackets win, they lose.
While Columbus salvaged a split of its home-and-home set with Philadelphia on Saturday with a 6-3 victory, the positives of two points gained were tempered by the loss of Gaborik, whose return from a 17-game absence due to a sprained knee was cut staggeringly short when the veteran forward suffered a broken right collarbone.
''Obviously, it's a big hole for our team,'' coach Todd Richards said after his club snapped a three-game skid. ''You really feel for him. He worked hard to get back and was excited to play.''
Center Ryan Johansen will look to continue picking up the slack in Gaborik's absence. He scored two goals Saturday and has registered at least one point in 12 of his last 14 games, totaling eight goals and eight assists in that span. The fourth overall pick from the 2010 draft is enjoying a career season with highs of 12 goals and 15 assists.
"I thought right from the first couple of shifts tonight we were on our game," Johansen said. "We were making plays and executing, and that's what you need to do to win hockey games."
More consistency from fellow forward R.J. Umberger would also help Columbus (15-17-4). The veteran left wing had two goals Saturday for his first multigoal game since March 31, 2012, and notched one of his three career hat tricks in his most recent game versus the Hurricanes - a 5-1 victory March 23, 2012.
Johansen and Umberger may have to take plenty of shots to continue their offensive surges if Justin Peters is in net again for Carolina (14-14-8). He was a tough-luck loser at Tampa on Saturday, when the Hurricanes fell 3-2 in overtime despite a 47-save performance.
''It was real hot in there,'' said Peters after he matched his season high in saves set in a 4-3 loss to Detroit on Nov. 21. ''They were throwing a lot of rubber at the net. We battled. We battled hard, and unfortunately, we weren't able to get the two points.''
Jiri Tlusty accounted for Carolina's offense with both goals, including the team's league-high seventh short-handed goal. However, the Hurricanes have yet to notch one of those goals at home due to their struggling special teams.
In addition to allowing opponents to convert 20.4 percent of their chances with the man advantage, Carolina has converted only 10 percent (7 of 70) of its power-play chances there.
Eric Staal, who assisted on Tlusty's short-handed tally for his team-leading 29th point, has totaled only four goals and six assists in Carolina's 18 home games. He has one assist in four lifetime home games versus Columbus and one goal and three assists in seven contests overall against the Blue Jackets.
Richards doesn't appear to have a clear-cut choice for his goaltender Monday - Curtis McElhinney is 0-2-0 with a 5.03 goals-against average in two starts against the Hurricanes while backup Mike McKenna has fared little better at 0-1-0 in two starts with a 4.67 GAA.