Sharks-Blue Jackets Preview
The Columbus Blue Jackets finally snapped their long losing streak and may finally get their top goaltender back next.
The San Jose Sharks could give a goaltender his first NHL start this weekend, possibly Saturday night.
The Blue Jackets have enjoyed success in recent matchups with the visiting Sharks, who look to avenge a loss to Columbus from last month.
Columbus (5-10-1) ended a 0-8-1 slide with Friday’s 4-3 win at Philadelphia. James Wisniewski and Nick Foligno both scored two goals and Ryan Johansen had a career-high four assists as the Blue Jackets won for the first time since a 5-4 victory at San Jose on Oct. 23 and avoided setting a franchise record with a 10th straight loss.
”It’s a really good feeling,” coach Todd Richards said. ”But it’s just one step in the right direction. We did a lot of good things tonight. Some areas we have to get better at. Enjoy it right now.”
Curtis McElhinney made 24 saves for his first victory on a day when Columbus activated Sergei Bobrovsky, out for the last eight games with a broken finger. Richards said Bobrovsky may return Saturday.
San Jose (9-7-2), meanwhile, has given Antti Niemi the last three starts. Alex Stalock was placed on injured reserve Wednesday for left knee surgery.
The Sharks are starting a back-to-back set with a visit to Carolina on tap Sunday. Their only other goalie besides Niemi is Troy Grosenick, who was called up from the minors Wednesday and would make his NHL debut if he gets into a game this weekend.
"I think I’m just going to try to treat it as any other game," Grosenick said. "Obviously human nature will make it a little bit more nerve wracking than that. I think that’s what I’ve done my whole career. Whenever I’m put in a new situation, I just try and keep everything the same."
Niemi is 1-3-0 with a 4.51 goals-against average in his last five starts against Columbus, including last month’s defeat.
The Blue Jackets are 5-1-1 in their last seven meetings with the Sharks, including 3-0-1 at home.
San Jose comes to town having avoided a third straight loss with Thursday’s 2-1 victory at Tampa Bay. Joe Thornton and Tyler Kennedy had second-period goals and Niemi made 32 saves.
”As far as complete games, it was one of our better ones of the season,” coach Todd McLellan said. ”I thought there was real positive energy with all four lines."
The Sharks killed off all four power-play chances by the Lightning, and have killed off 19 of opponents’ last 21.
Columbus scored three power-play goals for the second time in three games Friday. The Blue Jackets, who are 8 for 27 with the man advantage in their last six home games, are at 24.2 percent overall for one of the NHL’s best marks.
Defenseman Fedor Tyutin left in the third period Friday with a lower-body injury and didn’t return. Center Artem Anisimov missed his seventh straight game due to a concussion, though Richards said he may return Saturday.
Columbus seeks to avoid its first five-game home slide since going 0-4-2 from March 9-27, 2011.
Thornton has five points in a four-game run for the Sharks.