Blue Jackets trying to stay hot against Sabres
The Columbus Blue Jackets are finally playing well at home, though it’s much too late.
They’ll look to match a team record with their sixth straight home victory Friday night in their Nationwide Arena season finale against the league-worst Buffalo Sabres.
Columbus (40-35-5) moved to 10-0-1 in its last 11 games with Wednesday’s 5-0 victory over Toronto. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 35 shots and Scott Hartnell had a goal and an assist.
The Blue Jackets improved the league’s fourth-worst home mark to 18-20-2, a mark that represents one of their biggest problems. They won six in a row at home from Dec. 26, 2007-Jan. 15, 2008.
"For me, it definitely comes down to our home record," said coach Todd Richards, who has matched Ken Hitchcock as the franchise’s winningest coach with 125. "What we need to do is establish our game here at home and make this a tough building to play in."
Maybe the biggest issue is that Columbus has exceeded 500 man-games lost to injury. That figure is a team record and the NHL’s highest total this season.
"One thing about Columbus right now, they’re on a roll," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said. "I think they’ve won 10 out of the last 11 games. Barring injuries, they would probably be in the playoffs right now."
The latest health issue is the wrist and hand of Cam Atkinson, who was reportedly slashed accidentally by a teammate’s skate. Atkinson, fourth on the team with 20 goals, is uncertain to play the last two games.
Both teams are starting back-to-backs to close the season.
The Blue Jackets visit the New York Islanders on Saturday, so they’re expected to give Bobrovsky the start in their home finale. He’s gone 9-0-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average in his past 10 starts while posting a 2.16 GAA in winning his last five at home.
"He’s been good but again you have to credit the guys around him too," Richards said. "He’s made some big saves but I think it’s some things that we expect out of Bob."
Matt Hackett has sat out the last five games due to what Buffalo (23-49-8) called "soreness," with Anders Lindback starting four times in that span. Hackett returned to practice Wednesday and may start one of the final two contests.
"We’ll see how both are feeling," Nolan said. "Hackett, that was his first day on the ice yesterday. He took part of practice today so we’ll see how he feels."
The Sabres have won three of five after Monday’s 4-3 home victory over Carolina. Brian Gionta had a goal and an assist to give him 11 points in his last eight games.
Nick Foligno, born in Buffalo like brother and Sabres winger Marcus, has seven points in a five-game run for the Blue Jackets. Brandon Dubinsky has nine points in a six-game streak.
These teams have split two matchups by two-goal margins. The Sabres have captured three of their last four visits to Columbus.