Blue Jackets-Hurricanes Preview

Even when the Columbus Blue Jackets win, they lose.

With Marian Gaborik injured again, the Blue Jackets will try to

post back-to-back victories when they play the Carolina Hurricanes

on Monday night.

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.