Blue Jackets-Devils Preview
The New Jersey Devils attempt the fewest average shots in the NHL, but it was the Columbus Blue Jackets who somehow prevailed in the last meeting despite finishing with the league's lowest total.
Sergei Bobrovsky has won his last three starts against the Devils and is expected to be opposed by one of the league's best in Cory Schneider in Wednesday night's matchup at the Prudential Center.
The game will also feature the season debut of Devils all-time leading scorer Patrik Elias, who has been sidelined with a knee injury. The 39-year-old center, who has spent his entire career with New Jersey, had 34 points last season to give him 1,017 for his career.
"We're getting a guy who has played in the League a long time and we know he's in good shape and I think just getting that timing back and getting used to a game," coach John Hynes told the league's official website. "That's something that any player must get used to, but as a guy with his hockey smarts and experience, he should have no problem."
New Jersey (11-8-1) averages 25.3 shots and its success is predicated on the strong play of Schneider, who ranks among the league leaders with 10 wins and a 2.05 goals-against average. He made 36 saves in Sunday's 3-2 road win over his former team, Vancouver.
Columbus (8-14-0) beat New Jersey 3-1 on Oct. 27, with Bobrovsky making 23 saves and Schneider 11. No team this season has registered fewer than the Blue Jackets' 14 shots.
Bobrovsky has posted a 1.67 GAA in his last three meetings with New Jersey.
Last month's matchup was the third game for John Tortorella as Blue Jackets coach, and he said the club "didn't play that well" that night. Columbus fell to 8-7-0 under him with Sunday's 5-3 home defeat to San Jose.
Bobrovsky made 24 saves on 28 shots after posting a 1.00 GAA in winning his previous four starts. He seemed on course for a fifth straight victory before the Blue Jackets blew a two-goal lead in the third period and allowed the final four goals.
"They found a way to win," Tortorella said. "We found a way to lose.''
Columbus is hoping forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Alexander Wennberg return from six-game absences Wednesday. They practiced Tuesday and were activated off injured reserve, though Tortorella said he would wait until the morning skate to determine their status.
The Blue Jackets lost winger Rene Bourque for at least a week due to an upper-body injury suffered Sunday. Defenseman Fedor Tyutin will miss a second straight game with a broken nose.
Tortorella spent the two days in practice leading up to this game looking for more energy from his team.
"We need to be consistently harder and we need to play with pace, and we haven't been consistent with that," he told the Blue Jackets' official website. "I don't think we have a full understanding of the standard you have to be at every single game. How hard you play and how hard you are and the pace you play with, you can control that."
Ryan Johansen, who missed the first game against the Devils with an illness, has recorded eight points in his last seven contests. He has no points in five games at New Jersey.
Mike Cammalleri has seven points in his past four games for New Jersey, recording a goal and two assists Sunday as the Devils avoided an 0-3-0 trip.
"We wanted to play better than we had the last couple of games and not have our play continue to go south," Hynes said. "We did that tonight and fortunately we were able to find a way to win in the process."
New Jersey has scored one power-play goal in five straight contests while Columbus is 0 for 11 with the man advantage in its last 11.