Blue Jackets put home streak on line vs. Avalanche
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Blue Jackets look to extend their home winning streak to eight games when they host the Colorado Avalanche at Nationwide Arena on Monday at 7 p.m.
The surging Blue Jackets (10-4-2) will be playing the second game of a back-to-back after they beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 at the Verizon Center on Sunday for their fourth straight win. The Avalanche (8-9-0) claimed a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.
The Blue Jackets hold a 5-0-0 record versus current division leaders (Montreal, Anaheim, New York Rangers and Chicago) and are 2-0-0 versus Washington, the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners. They are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and have won seven stright at home.
One of the reasons Columbus is having consistent success is 22-year-old center Alexander Wennberg. He leads the team with 14 assists and is second to captain Nick Foligno in points with 17.
Now in his third year with the team, Wennberg (3-14-17 in 16 games) is showing more confidence in shooting the puck while showcasing the latent skill the club hoped for when they drafted the Swede 14th overall in 2013.
“He's an important guy for us, for as young as our team is,” said Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella. “He's probably one of the most skilled players, most skilled center (on team). It's a big year for him to take more responsibility in his play, away from the puck and with the puck.
“He's still young, but he's a third-year pro. This is a big year for him and I think he's started off very well.”
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (10-4-1) has started 15 of 16 games for Columbus, holding a 2.19 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.
The Avalanche are 4-6-0 in their last 10 games. They are without the services of two of their centers and team leaders due to injury. Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog has a lower-body injury suffered in Los Angeles last Tuesday and assistant captain Matt Duchene suffered a concussion on Nov. 11 against Winnipeg.
Duchene hopes to be able to play at Columbus.
“I would say it's definitely a possibility,” he told the Denver Post. “I'm not going to say for sure, because I thought I was going to be good for Dallas and then two hours later, I'm sitting on the plane and I'm not feeling good. It's an up-to-the-minute thing. It'll probably be a game-time decision even then.”
Despite missing his fourth consecutive game on Saturday, the 25-year old Duchene still leads the team with six goals in 13 games (five assists, 11 points). Landeskog is third on the team in points with eight (four goals, four assists in 15 games).
Center Nathan MacKinnon, 21, leads the club in assists and points, recording 4-8-12 in 17 games.
“We've pushed hard in some of the games, especially the Dallas game, lately,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar told the Denver Post. “But we came up short. (Saturday) we kept pushing. It didn't matter what the score was, we tried to stay with our game.
“It's showing the character that our guys have and we're starting to move in the right direction.”
The Avalanche are hoping goaltender Semyon Varlamov asserts himself soon. He's 4-8-0 with a 3.01 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 12 games. Backup netminder Calvin Pickard is 4-1-0 in six games with a 2.07 GAA and .931 save percentage.