Blue Jackets not satisfied with recent success

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson (7) handles the puck as Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) and defenseman Kris Letang (58) defend during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 2-1.

Charles LeClaire/Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

With 13 games remaining until the Olympic break, the push is on for the Blue Jackets. They have posted a modest three-game winning streak and are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. Although they have played well enough to win, the consensus among the players is that they need to be better. Every game is important, as well as every point.

"Obviously, every point is important right now," said center Brandon Dubinsky. "It seems like all of the teams in our division (Metro) are finding ways to win. So we have to keep pace and pull ourselves together and keep going."

Dubinsky is but one of the many bricks that make up this club. Over the last five games, he’s 2-2-4 (+3), which puts him at 9-20-29 (+8) for the season. Good numbers all, yet he’s not satisfied.

"I still think that we have room to improve (as a team)," he said, "as far as playing our 60-minute games. Where we get in trouble is with our puck decisions. We turn a couple over that are just easy chips out of the zone, so we’ve got to clean those up."

Columbus is still narrowing their goal differential gap. It is now down to -3, with 126 goals for and 129 goals against. This is better than all but the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in the Metro Division. They are finding ways to have more offensive output, with the 6-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday as a prime example of this.

Since making his debut in the lineup, right winger Nathan Horton has proven to be another of the oft-times sited bricks upon which the team is being built with. He’s 1-2-3 (+1) over his last five games, but more importantly, he’s elevated the play of the guys around him. Boone Jenner especially seems to be playing some of his best hockey being on a line with Horton.

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"I like the way he works," said Horton. "Whenever you work like that, you’re going to be around the puck and you’re going to be in on the puck. It’s fun for guys to be able to play with a guy like that. He’s talented, he can make plays and he can shoot."

He’s matter-of-fact about getting two points from each win, especially against a divisional opponent above them in the standings.

"We don’t want to let any points slide," Horton said. "Sometimes it wasn’t pretty, but sometimes it was. That’s all that matters, we got the two points."

Backstopping the team as they make the push is Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s 4-1-0 in his last five and has a save percentage of .916 and a goals against average of 2.51 over 25 games this season. Friday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, he was in "Vezina" form, reminiscent of last year.

"He’s a pretty special goaltender, that’s for sure," said Horton. "He knows how to stop the puck. He’s always in the right spot. And if he’s not in the right spot, he’s so quick to get over. For guys who play in front of him, it’s a good feeling to have him behind us."

Bobrovsky knows that he gives the team a chance to win, but gives his teammates a lot of praise in finding a way to put goals in the opponents net. He’s a calm fixture behind the five guys in front of him that just goes out and does what he does.

"I try to focus on stopping the puck," Bobrovsky said. "As a team, as a group, the guys played really hard in front of me. Thanks to them, they did a really good job. We play as a team, together, sometimes the ‘D’ play really hard, sometimes forwards and sometimes goalie. But we make these results as a team, as a group, all of us. It’s not just me."

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The importance of each game is not lost on him.

"I think we just have to keep focused on every game," he said. "Whether it’s a practice day or a game day, we have to be consistent. We have to go out and do our best to win."

Although the team is still not 100-percent healthy, left winger Matt Calvert has returned to the ice and is skating on a line with Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson. He might need a few games to get back into the swing of things, although you can’t tell that by seeing how he flies around the ice in his two games back.

"My legs fell pretty good and I feel pretty good, condition-wise," Calvert said. "I’ve just got to get my hands back. Other than that, I just try to keep it simple. I’ve got to be a little better in my own zone getting pucks out.

"You build game by game. You can’t get too high or too low. But, we’ve got to keep on going. Every night is a new night. We’ve been in this situation before, chasing. We’ve got to worry about ourselves. Put a streak together and you never know where we’ll be."

They can continue their winning streak, pushing it to four in a row, tonight as they take on the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning, who are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. The puck drops at 7 p.m. within the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena.