Blue Jackets-Devils Preview

Every division matchup figures to be critical for the teams

bunched in the Metropolitan.

The New Jersey Devils have oddly fared better against the teams

above them in the division than they have against the ones below

them.

The Devils have already lost twice to the Columbus Blue Jackets,

who will be in search of their first victory in New Jersey in

Friday night’s matchup.

While the Pittsburgh Penguins seem to be cruising to the

inaugural Metropolitan title, the six teams behind them are

separated by six points. That pack includes New Jersey (15-16-7, 37

points) and Columbus (16-17-4, 36).

The Blue Jackets are 2-1-0 on a five-game stretch within the

division with the finale being Sunday’s home game against

Pittsburgh.

“We got New Jersey right after Christmas, then we got Pittsburgh

and then we head out on the road,” coach Todd Richards said.

New Jersey could be wary of this matchup since it is 6-3-0

against the four teams ahead of it in the Metropolitan and 1-3-1

against the three below it.

The Devils have scored first against the Blue Jackets both times

only to suffer a 4-1 loss Oct. 22 and a 5-4 defeat Dec. 10. New

Jersey blew a two-goal lead in the most recent matchup, as Martin

Brodeur surrendered all five goals – a season high.

That victory for Columbus came in controversial fashion, as Nick

Foligno scored the game-winning goal with 91 seconds left when Ryan

Johansen’s shot went in off his skate. The Devils felt Foligno

kicked the puck in and Brodeur thought he was interfered with

before the goal was scored.

Johansen has been playing well with 14 points in his last 12

games. He scored the tying goal with 4:02 left and Jack Skille

added the go-ahead tally 1:28 later in Monday’s 4-3 victory at

Carolina.

The Blue Jackets turned in the game’s final rally after twice

blowing one-goal leads.

“It felt like the momentum shifted the whole game,” Johansen

said. “It seemed like every other shift, it was theirs, then ours

and it’s just one of those games you have to stick with and stay

focused and we did it. We got the job done somehow.”

Columbus is in search of its first three-game win streak since

Oct. 20-25.

The Blue Jackets are 0-3-1 with one tie all-time in New Jersey.

Brodeur has started all of those games, posting a 1.55

goals-against average.

Devils star Jaromir Jagr will try to begin a new streak after

his seven-game run in which he amassed 11 points ended in Monday’s

5-2 defeat at Chicago. New Jersey was outshot 37-12.

”Tonight we gave away way too much space and way too much

opportunity to move the puck as well,” winger Michael Ryder said.

”We’re pretty stingy on defense usually, and tonight we got away

from that and tonight it shows on the scoreboard.”

Right wing Damien Brunner (lower-body injury) and center Andrei

Loktionov (illness) have both missed the last two games. Their

statuses are not known.

The Devils own the NHL’s fourth-worst power play at home at 13.3

percent.