The Columbus Blue Jackets will close their season series with the Vancouver Canucks Thursday night at Nationwide Arena. The game is the first of a franchise-long seven-game homestand for the Blue Jackets that sees them stay in Columbus until Feb. 26. The Canucks play their second game of a six-game road trip throughout the East.
Last time out, the Blue Jackets got a goal in overtime from Seth Jones to defeat the Red Wings 3-2. After falling down 1-0, Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson scored midway through the first to make it 2-1. Thomas Vanek converted a power-play goal to tie the score. Then it was nothing doing until Jones scored in overtime. That was the Blue Jackets last game at Joe Louis Arena.
The Blue Jackets will have Josh Anderson back tonight according to head coach John Tortorella. Anderson left Tuesday’s game in Detroit at the end of the second period after a hit from Brendan Smith. Tortorella confirmed that Anderson does not have a concussion. In the event something were to happen to Anderson leading up to the game, Oliver Bjorkstrand is with the team and could step in. He was an emergency recall Wednesday.
Tortorella also confirmed that David Savard is day-to-day and will not play Thursday. He did skate with the team in the morning skate alongside Dalton Prout, a good sign that a return is near. The rest of the lineup remains the same from Tuesday. Sergei Bobrovsky starts in net.
The Canucks come into Thursday off a 4-2 loss to the Nashville Predators. Markus Granlund opened the scoring before the Predators answered with three goals to take a 3-1 lead. Alex Edler scored on the power play to close within one, before Mike Fisher iced the game away with an empty-net goal.
Coach Willie Desjardins confirmed that they will not have Sven Baertschi in the lineup Thursday after he took a hit from Cody McLeod. Reid Boucher will draw into the lineup for Baertschi on the fourth line with former Blue Jackets Jack Skille and Michael Chaput. Ryan Miller will start in net.
Vancouver Canucks at Columbus Blue Jackets
Nationwide Arena – 7:00 p.m. EST
TV Broadcast Channels: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go and Sportsnet Pacific
Radio Broadcast Channels: 97.1 The Fan and TSN 1040
Vancouver Canucks: 23-24-6, 52 points
Road Record: 6-16-3
Hot Players: Brandon Sutter, Bo Horvat
Key Injuries: Sven Baertschi (concussion), Erik Gudbranson (wrist surgery), Anton Rodin (knee surgery), Derek Dorsett (cervical fusion surgery)
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Markus Granlund
Alex Burrows-Bo Horvat-Jannik Hansen
Loui Eriksson-Brandon Sutter-Jayson Megna
Jack Skille-Michael Chaput-Reid Boucher
Alex Edler-Troy Stetcher
Luca Sbisa-Chris Tanev
Ben Hutton-Nikita Tryamkin
Columbus Blue Jackets: 34-13-5, 73 points
Home Record: 18-6-1
Hot Players: Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones
Key Injuries: David Clarkson (back, on LTIR), David Savard (back)
Brandon Saad-Alexander Wennberg-Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner-Brandon Dubinsky-Cam Atkinson
Matt Calvert-William Karlsson-Josh Anderson
Scott Hartnell-Lukas Sedlak-Sam Gagner
Zach Werenski-Seth Jones
Jack Johnson-Ryan Murray
Markus Nutivaara-Scott Harrington
1) The Blue Jackets enter Saturday as the third-best home team in the NHL with a record of 18-6-1. They are also the only team in the NHL to not lose three consecutive games at any point this season. A big reason for this is their ability to close games. The Blue Jackets are 30-3-2 on the season when tied or leading after two periods.
2) The line of Jenner, Dubinsky and Atkinson are collectively playing their best hockey of the season. Dubinsky has four goals and 10 points in his last 11 games while Atkinson has five goals in his last seven games to give him 26 goals, just one from his career high. Jenner has been much more noticeable of late, especially in the physical game.
3) First-time All-Star Bo Horvat comes in as the leading scorer for the Canucks with 34 points in 53 games. He also leads them with 15 goals. The Sedin brothers come in second and third in scoring. They will be without their fourth leading scorer in Baertschi as he is out with a concussion.
4) The Canucks have had the better of the Blue Jackets in the overall series. The Blue Jackets are 19-26-9 all-time against the Canucks, including 10-12-5 at Nationwide Arena. More recently though, the teams have split the season series. Each team has three wins against the other in the last three seasons.
Tortorella said that the start is the key to Thursday’s game. He did not like the way the Blue Jackets started against both New Jersey and Detroit. The Blue Jackets must jump on the Canucks early as Vancouver will play a desperate game given their place in the standings. The Canucks played the Blue Jackets to overtime in their earlier meeting, with Columbus escaping with the win. The Blue Jackets also must get contributions from other than Dubinsky’s line.
The Canucks have to play this game like it’s the playoffs. Every loss is one step closer to becoming a trade deadline seller. Thursday is game two of a season-defining six-game road trip that sees the Canucks go to Boston, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and St. Louis afterward. They need their best players to start contributing. For the Canucks to win this game, they need vintage Ryan Miller and an unlikely hero to score multiple points.