Blue Jackets-Hurricanes Preview
The Columbus Blue Jackets are among four teams tied with 80 points battling for the Eastern Conference’s wild-card spots.
The Blue Jackets are unsure of the status of top goalie Sergei Bobrovsky as they try to improve their postseason position Saturday night on the road against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Columbus (37-30-6) failed to get a leg up on the competition Friday, losing 2-1 at home to Pittsburgh. Toronto also lost in regulation and Washington and Detroit were idle among the other teams with 80 points.
"We gotta put this one behind us right away and start focusing on Carolina," coach Todd Richards said.
Bobrovsky did not play after the reigning Vezina Trophy winner left after one period due to the flu in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over Detroit. Curtis McElhinney replaced him in that contest and made 29 saves Friday.
The Blue Jackets recalled goalie Mike McKenna from Springfield of the AHL as insurance Thursday, though Bobrovsky will travel to Carolina.
Richards said that he will assess what he needs to do to jump-start the Blue Jackets in the second half of a back-to-back set.
"Possibility of getting some guys in the lineup just to maybe try to get some fresh legs, and some more energy, some new energy," the coach said. "But that stuff, that we’ll discuss as a group. But as far as there’s nothing systematically, as far as what Carolina does and what we need to address as a group."
Columbus has shown improvement on the power play, going 3 for 8 in the last two games after an 0-for-35 drought.
Second-year center Ryan Johansen remains one goal shy of joining Rick Nash and Geoff Sanderson as the only Blue Jackets in history to score 30 in a season.
Right behind Johansen is Carolina top goal scorer Jeff Skinner, who is three shy of his career best with 28.
The Blue Jackets and Hurricanes have split four meetings. The last three featured goalie matchups between Bobrovsky and Anton Khudobin.
Khudobin is 2-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average in those games. He had 35 saves for his first shutout of the season in Thursday’s 3-0 victory over Florida.
"He’s been playing so well all year," coach Kirk Muller said. "I know the score was 3-0 tonight but we still make it interesting and make some mistakes but he’s there to make up for it."
Jiri Tlusty scored twice and Skinner had the other tally for Carolina, which has 73 points.
"There’s a lot of fight in the guys still," Muller said. "You approach it still as one game at a time."
Carolina opponents are 0 for 16 on the power play in the last five games and Columbus is 1 for 10 with the man advantage in the season series.
Matt Calvert had the lone goal Friday for the Blue Jackets, losers of three of four.
"We have to understand the urgency and desperation we have to come out (at Carolina)," defenseman James Wisniewski said.