Blue Jackets carry hot streak into Buffalo

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson celebrates a goal during the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Nationwide Arena.

Cam Atkinson and Sergei Bobrovsky are big reasons why the Columbus Blue Jackets are on the cusp of matching the longest winning streak in franchise history. Only one of them, however, may be on the ice to try helping the team re-write the record book.

While Bobrovsky’s status is unknown, Atkinson will look to continue his scoring barrage when the visiting Blue Jackets go for a sixth straight win Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres.

Columbus (23-20-4) has won five in a row after beating Washington 5-1 on Friday. The team’s only six-game winning streak was from March 24-April 3, 2006.

"When we’re at our best, all four lines are definitely buzzing and creating some chances," said Atkinson, who scored twice.

Atkinson has made the most of his recent chances, scoring five goals in five games to equal his total from the previous 25. The right wing, whose 15 goals are a career high, tallied once and added an assist in a 4-1 win at Buffalo on Oct. 10.

Bobrovsky has won six straight starts with a 1.38 goals-against average and .955 save percentage. That stretch does include a 12-game absence due to a groin injury, but he’s picked up where he left off.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has won four straight with a 1.48 GAA since his return after a 26-save performance Friday. However, it’s unclear if he’ll get the nod in back-to-back games as it’s happened only twice this season, most recently Nov. 19-20.

Backup Curtis McElhinney has a 3.83 GAA while losing three of his last five. He owns a 4.30 GAA while dropping both of his career appearances at Buffalo (13-27-6).

Bobrovsky, who had 26 saves in Buffalo on Oct. 10, is competing with Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov to become Russia’s No. 1 goaltender at next month’s Sochi Olympics.

Buffalo’s Ryan Miller is making a solid push to be the top man for the United States, going 7-2-2 with a 1.75 GAA since Dec. 10. That stretch includes a 1.29 GAA while matching his career high with six straight wins at First Niagara Center.

Miller’s recent success is an adequate reason for him to continue starting, but Jhonas Enroth’s 1-9-4 record and 2.57 GAA may only cement it. Enroth, expected to back up Henrik Lundqvist with Sweden, hasn’t won since Oct. 25 at Florida.

Miller, though, is coming off Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout loss to Toronto. He was beaten on all three attempts in the tiebreaker after making 36 saves through overtime.

He has a 2.36 GAA and one shutout while splitting four home meetings with Columbus. He was charged with a 4-1 loss in the most recent matchup there, making 29 saves Oct. 10.

Cody Hodgson leads Buffalo with 23 points, getting four in three games after missing eight with an upper-body injury. The center has a goal in each of the last two, scoring early in the third period Wednesday to help the Sabres gain a point in the standings.

Buffalo has totaled six goals in two games – both losses – as defensive issues continue to plague the team. It’s surrendered at least three tallies in four games – all losses – during a 2-3-2 stretch.

"We still need to clean up a couple of things," right wing Drew Stafford said. "At the same time, I think we’re playing solid enough where we’re generating turnovers where we can go on the offensive. We’ve translated that into goals. On the flip side of that, we are still making a couple of mistakes that end up in the back of our net."