Jets-Blue Jackets Preview

The Columbus Blue Jackets have been giving up goals at an

alarming rate.

Facing the slumping Winnipeg Jets could help the NHL’s worst

team get things turned around.

The Blue Jackets try to avoid a fourth consecutive loss Saturday

night when they host a Jets team looking to snap its four-game skid

with a complete 60-minute effort.

Off to the worst start in franchise history, Columbus (2-12-1)

has been outscored 19-6 during its three-game losing streak,

including 17-2 in the first two periods. The Blue Jackets trailed

5-1 after the first 40 minutes in Thursday’s 6-3 loss to

Chicago.

“We look like a group that’s very fragile,” said coach Scott

Arniel, whose team has allowed a league-high 22 first-period goals.

“I mean, we got off to a very slow, fragile start. Then they scored

a couple of power-play goals and it was obviously wide open after

that.”

Poor special teams play is nothing new to the Blue Jackets, who

have the league’s worst penalty kill at 71.2 percent.

“Any mistake we (make) it just ends up in the back of the net,”

defenseman James Wisniewski said. “… We just have to stop feeling

sorry for ourselves and start playing some hockey.”

So do the Jets (5-8-3), who arrive in Columbus following

Thursday’s 5-2 loss to Florida. Playing its first home game in 17

days, Winnipeg managed just 10 shots through two periods and

trailed 4-0. Tim Stapleton and captain Andrew Ladd scored in the

opening 5:40 of the third as the club outshot the Panthers

17-5.

“We were standing around watching,” Ladd said. “We didn’t play

the way we need to play in the first 40 minutes. The last 20 was

more like the way we need to play.”

Winnipeg has been outscored 11-4 in the opening 40 minutes

during its season-high skid.

The Jets-Atlanta Thrashers franchise has not scored in the first

period while losing five in a row to Columbus, getting shut out

three times.

Ondrej Pavelec has lost all three of his starts against the Blue

Jackets and has a 4.01 goals-against average during Winnipeg’s

current skid. He gave up four goals Thursday and was replaced by

Peter Mannino for the final 20 minutes, so Jets coach Claude Noel

could give Chris Mason his first start since Oct. 24.

Mason was removed from injured list Friday after being out with

a groin injury. He is 16-4-2 with a 2.05 GAA in 22 starts versus

Columbus.

Whoever is in net will take on a Blue Jackets team that has

scored just once in the last three games when not trailing by at

least four goals.

Having newcomer Jeff Carter in the lineup could provide a

much-needed boost for Columbus – among the league’s worst on the

power play at 11.4 percent – but it’s uncertain when the All-Star

center will return. He’s missed 10 games with a fractured right

foot.

The Blue Jackets, though, have to be pleased with center Mark

Letestu, who scored Thursday just two days after being acquired via

trade from Pittsburgh.

Captain Rick Nash recorded his 500th career point by setting up

Letestu’s goal and is tied with Vinny Prospal for the team lead

with eight assists.

Columbus made another deal Friday, trading Kris Russell to St.

Louis for fellow defenseman Nikita Nikitin.

Goaltender Steve Mason has stopped 58 of 75 shots in three

starts this month for a Columbus team surrendering a league-worst

3.87 goals per game.