The Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche look to snap out of their respective slumps Saturday night when the teams skate at Nationwide Arena.
Columbus (13-10-5) and Colorado (15-9-6) both got off to strong starts this season, but neither is playing well now. The Blue Jackets have dropped seven of eight and the Avalanche five of six.
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Last season, Columbus outscored Colorado 17-6 en route to a four-game sweep of the series. The Avalanche had been 23-3-1 with one tie all-time against the Blue Jackets prior to 2008-09.
Kristian Huselius had five points in the four games against Colorado last season, while defenseman Jan Hejda added three and was plus-9.
The Blue Jackets are hoping to take advantage of the Avalanche again after opening a three-game homestand with a 6-3 loss to Toronto on Thursday. Huselius scored in the second period to cut Columbus’ deficit to 2-1 before the Blue Jackets allowed four straight goals.
“We didn’t do a good job of managing the puck,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Tonight it was just careless.”
Steve Mason gave up four goals on 14 shots before being replaced by Mathieu Garon, who stopped nine of 11 shots. Leading goal scorer Rick Nash failed to put the puck in the net for the seventh time in eight games.
“I don’t have the whole group bought in to the way you have to play to win the National Hockey League,” Hitchcock said. “You have to be strong in certain areas.”
It’s unclear who Colorado will have in goal with Craig Anderson’s status questionable due to a neck injury. Anderson is 4-6-3 with 3.40 goals-against average in 14 games since starting 10-1-2 with a 1.97 GAA.
Peter Budaj got the nod Thursday in a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh, which snapped a third-period tie with three goals.
“Give credit to them, they made a couple of nice plays on the goals they scored,” said Budaj, who made 29 saves. “That was the bottom line.”
T.J. Galiardi scored for the second straight game with a power-play goal in the first period to get Colorado on the board first. The Avalanche got outshot 33-16 on the night, including 14-1 in the third.
“We were right in that game,” coach Joe Sacco said. “We played two good periods, but when you get one shot in the third, it’s going to be tough to manufacture a win.
“We had some chances and we didn’t capitalize on them during the first couple periods.”
Avalanche winger Milan Hejduk returned Thursday after missing three games with a knee injury. Hejduk has a team-high 11 goals – seven on the road.
This will be the first game at Columbus for former Blue Jackets captain Adam Foote since he was re-acquired by Colorado on Feb. 28, 2008. The defenseman, who missed both visits to Columbus last season with the Avalanche, spent nearly three seasons with the Blue Jackets from 2005-08.