Blue Jackets try to build on record start vs. Jets

October 27, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- For the second time in three days, the Columbus Blue Jackets face a team playing the second night of a back-to-back on the road.

The Winnipeg Jets visit Nationwide Arena on Friday night after a hard-fought, 2-1 overtime loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

Coming off a five-day break, the Jets played the Penguins to a stalemate Thursday before a turnover led to Phil Kessel's winning goal 67 seconds into the extra period.

"Not a bad way to start the road trip," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. "We've to go into Columbus and make amends for our last game and play a quicker game and keep going."

In Winnipeg's matchup against Columbus two weeks ago, the Blue Jackets played one of their better games during the first month of the season, getting goals from five players in a 5-2 road victory that ran their winning streak to four games.

"The Columbus game was eye-opening," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. "They play a fast game, and we were sluggish."

The Jackets came back home after that for a four-game homestand and lost the first two before handling the Buffalo Sabres 5-1 on Wednesday night. The Sabres had played at home the previous night before coming to Columbus.

Although the Blue Jackets (6-3-0) are off to their best start in franchise history, coach John Tortorella is tinkering with the forward lines. He was unhappy with the chemistry early in the Wednesday game, and he shuffled the lines several times in an attempt to find suitable pairings.

Tortorella said he thinks he found several combinations that worked well together, including a top three of Nick Foligno, Josh Anderson and Artemi Panarin. Foligno and Anderson scored against the Sabres.

But nothing apparently is set in stone.

"I thought when we changed the lines, it changed our game," Tortorella said. "As always, I'm going to watch it and try to stay with it, but I'm never going to be a coach to just sit there and watch us die on the vine with it either."

One of the moves involved taking the alternate captain status from veteran center Brandon Dubinsky and giving it to defenseman Jack Johnson. With Dubinsky off to a slow start (no goals and only two assists in nine games), Tortorella made the move in an attempt to help Dubinsky focus on his play on the ice.

Dubinsky is on the second line with Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson.

"I mean, listen, I'm human. Obviously, it hurts a little bit to have that role taken away," Dubinsky said. "I mean, for me to just say I don't really care would be a complete lie, and you guys know me better than that.

"Yeah, it was a tough conversation, without a doubt. But again, I owe it to my teammates to be who I am, the player this team needs me to be. So I'm not going to let that affect me."

The Jets (4-3-1) were not happy with the result against the Penguins but were encouraged by the effort.

"We go to play another great team in Columbus," said Winnipeg left winger Matt Hendricks, who made his debut after sitting out the first seven games of the season with a lower-body injury. "If we come out with the same mentality and the same detailed game tomorrow night, I think we're going to have some success."

Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck had a big game Thursday, stopping 34 shots, but it is uncertain who will start in the net against the Blue Jackets. Backup Steve Mason hasn't started since the last game against Columbus.

"We battled hard," Wheeler said after the Thursday defeat. "The penalty kill was huge tonight, and (Hellebuyck) was awesome. There are lots of positives to draw on going into tomorrow."

Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start in goal for Blue Jackets, who have a back-to-back of their own with a game at St. Louis on Saturday night.