Sabres-Blue Jackets Preview
The Columbus Blue Jackets are brimming with confidence, and a visit by the league’s worst team may only add to that.
The Blue Jackets can stretch their team-record win streak to nine games Saturday night if they can hand the Buffalo Sabres a sixth straight defeat.
Columbus (26-20-4) won 5-2 over Philadelphia at home Thursday to continue its surge. Matt Calvert and Brandon Dubinsky each had a goal and an assist and Sergei Bobrovsky made 26 saves in his first start against his former team.
”There’s a confidence in the room now,” coach Todd Richards said. ”I think there is an understanding of how we need to play, what we need to do as a group to have success.”
One of the Blue Jackets’ victories in this sizzling stretch was a 4-3 shootout win at Buffalo (13-29-7) last Saturday. Columbus won despite allowing a tying goal with 35 seconds left in regulation, as Bobrovsky stopped all three shootout attempts.
That defeat is part of a 0-3-2 stretch for the Sabres, who also fell 4-1 at home to the Blue Jackets on Oct. 10. This is their first visit to Columbus, where they have one win, four losses and one tie.
The Blue Jackets can match the longest home win streak in club history, a six-game run Dec. 26, 2007-Jan. 15, 2008. Their strong play at Nationwide Arena has created a buzz in town.
"This is something we’ve talked about as a group, playing better at home, playing better in front of our fans and really trying to create an identity for our team and I think we’ve done that," Richards said.
Columbus is 7 for 22 on the power play during its home win streak, with six different skaters scoring goals. The club is also 7 for 22 with the man advantage in its last five games overall, and its last longer stretch with at least one such tally was a six-game run Feb. 3-14, 2012.
The Sabres have scored three or more regulation goals in each of their last five games for their best streak since doing that in eight straight games from March 19-April 3, 2012.
The problem is that they have conceded three or more in every game of this slide, falling 5-3 at home to Carolina on Thursday.
"We’ve got to talk a little more, play a little harder, sort it out a little better, box out a little better, let our goalie see the puck," center Tyler Ennis said.
Ennis enters with a career-high point streak of six games, including a two-assist performance last week against Columbus. Tyler Myers scored twice in that contest but has no points in two games since.
The Sabres have seen improvement on a power play ranked among the NHL’s worst at 14.0 percent with four goals in their last 15 chances.
This is the fifth matchup between the Foligno brothers, and third since Nick Foligno joined Columbus in 2012-13. Nick Foligno has one goal and one assist in those games while Marcus Foligno has one goal for Buffalo.