Devils begin rigorous road stretch against Jackets
Consistently filling up the net at home has been a hallmark of what’s becoming the best season in Columbus Blue Jackets history.
On Saturday night, the Blue Jackets seek their fourth straight home win over the New Jersey Devils, who have been red-hot on the road in recent weeks.
Columbus (33-12-5) is 18-5-1 at Nationwide Arena, where it will play eight of its next nine games, with the only road game scheduled for Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings.
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The favorable slate bodes well as Columbus is second in the league behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in scoring at home with an average of 3.58 goals per game.
There’s another facet to consider in Columbus’ recent history against New Jersey (21-21-10): The Blue Jackets have scored 15 goals during the three-game home winning streak over the Devils.
However, New Jersey has found its groove away from home after struggling for the first three months of the season. The Devils have won five straight on the road, outscoring the opposition 16-9.
Despite the better play of late, the Devils rank last in the Eastern Conference in goals per game on the road (2.17) and are ahead of only Vancouver, Arizona, Calgary and Colorado in that category.
Saturday’s game is the first of four meetings between the Blue Jackets and Devils, and it comes after both teams lost in overtime on Friday night.
Columbus rallied with third-period goals from Alexander Wennberg and Cam Atkinson before falling 4-3 to the Penguins in Pittsburgh.
“All in all, we have to leave here in a decent mood as far as scrapping away to get a point and let’s move on to our next game that’s coming pretty quickly,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said.
Atkinson continues to be the Blue Jackets’ top offensive threat with 25 goals and 22 assists, but he has been particularly strong at home with 12 goals and 15 assists. Columbus is 14-3-1 when he gets on the scoresheet at Nationwide.
Brandon Dubinsky had a goal and assist in Friday’s loss but liked what he saw.
“I think for the most part if we play like that, we’re going to get the full result,” he said. “Every point is huge especially down the stretch here. … We’ve got be ready and hungrier and try to get two tomorrow.”
Dubinsky’s contributions against the Devils cannot be ignored. Since joining Columbus in a 2012 trade with the New York Rangers, he has four goals and five assists in a five-game points streak at home against New Jersey. That included a career-high four-point effort in a 5-4 win on Dec. 10. 2013.
Columbus trails the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals by three points and has a game in hand.
Meanwhile in New Jersey, the Devils scored all of their goals in second period but allowed the tying goal in the third and winning goal 73 seconds into overtime of a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames.
One player who has excelled on the road for the Devils is Kyle Palmieri, who has scored four goals in his last three games. Palmieri has just 30 points this season, but 22 have come away from Newark.
Palmieri also has three goals in his last two games overall.
“I don’t think you look at it for moral victories,” Palmieri told the Bergen Record after the loss Friday. “It’s time to string wins together. A point is nice. But we need two.”
With 52 points, the Devils are 13th in the Eastern Conference but trail the Philadelphia Flyers by six points for the second wild-card spot.