The Columbus Blue Jackets continue their three-game homestand Thursday night when they welcome the Ottawa Senators to Nationwide Arena. This marks the first meeting of the season between these Eastern Conference foes. The Senators hope to continue the success they enjoyed last season.
Last time out, the Blue Jackets fell behind early but rallied for a convincing 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Brandon Dubinsky scored twice, while Boone Jenner and Lukas Sedlak each added goals. Ryan Murray had two assists. Sergei Bobrovsky returned from illness to stop 24 of 25 shots to earn his league-leading 27th win.
The Blue Jackets will not hold a morning skate, as has been their custom the day after a practice. Coach John Tortorella will address the media at around 4:30 P.M. We will learn then if Zach Werenski will be available for the Blue Jackets.
According to Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch, Werenski missed practice on Wednesday with an illness. His status is uncertain. Markus Nutivaara is still day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. In the event both Werenski and Nutivaara are unavailable, expect Ryan Murray to play with Seth Jones, while Scott Harrington would play with Dalton Prout on the third pairing. Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to start.
The Senators defeated the Blues 6-4 on Tuesday night. Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone each scored two goals, while Bobby Ryan and John-Gabriel Pageau each tallied once. Kyle Turris and Tom Pyatt had two assists apiece.
The Senators are dealing with the flu bug. Coach Guy Boucher confirmed to the media that some players might not be available Thursday. A call-up or two isn’t out of the question. Fredrik Claesson is expected to play, meaning one of the defensemen who played Tuesday is out. According to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, Mark Borowiecki wasn’t at the rink for the optional. We’ll learn who is out at warm ups. Mike Condon is expected to start.
Ottawa Senators at Columbus Blue Jackets
Nationwide Arena – 7:00 p.m. EST
TV Broadcast Channels: Fox Sports Ohio/Fox Sports Go and TSN5
Radio Broadcast Channels: 97.1 The Fan and TSN 1200
Ottawa Senators: 23-15-4, 50 points
Road Record: 10-8-0
Hot Players: Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Erik Karlsson
Key Injuries: Clarke MacArthur (Concussion), Andrew Hammond (Lower body)
Zack Smith-Derick Brassard-Mark Stone
Ryan Dzingel-Kyle Turris-Bobby Ryan
Mike Hoffman-John-Gabriel Pageau-Tom Pyatt
Chris Kelly-Curtis Lazar-Chris Neil
Marc Methot-Erik Karlsson
Dion Phaneuf-Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki-Chris Wideman (Fredrik Claesson)
Columbus Blue Jackets: 30-9-4, 64 points
Home Record: 17-4-1
Hot Players: Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, Sergei Bobrovsky
Key Injuries: David Clarkson (back, on LTIR), Markus Nutivaara (undisclosed, day-to-day)
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-David Savard
Ryan Murray-Scott Harrington (Dalton Prout)
1) The Blue Jackets enter Thursday as one of the best home teams in the NHL. They are 17-2-1 in their last 20 games at Nationwide Arena. Their 17 home wins is tied for third overall in the league behind the Capitals (18) and the Penguins (19). The Blue Jackets have outscored their opponents 84-46 at Nationwide Arena this season.
2) The Blue Jackets have started games extremely well this season. They have scored the first goal in 28 of their 43 games, going 21-4-3 in those games. In the 15 games the Blue Jackets have allowed the first goal, they are 9-5-1, including their 4-1 victory over the Hurricanes on Tuesday.
3) The Senators are making their only appearance at Nationwide Arena this season on Thursday. The Senators won two of the three meetings last season, outscoring the Jackets 12-7. This will mark the 11th time the teams are playing in Columbus, with the Blue Jackets going 4-5-1 in the previous 10 games.
4) Several Senators have enjoyed career success against the Blue Jackets. Karlsson has 7-9-16 in 11 career games. Turris has 2-8-10 in 15 career games, while Bobby Ryan has 11-14-25 in 29 career games. Coming into Thursday, Hoffman has six points in his last four games, including a two-goal game last time out against the Blues.
The name of the game Thursday is speed. Whoever can establish their pace and tempo will have a leg up. The Blue Jackets need to know where Karlsson is. If they can take away the neutral zone like they did against the Hurricanes, that will bode well for their chances.
The Senators want to make this a track meet. They enjoyed success last season because the Blue Jackets couldn’t offer up any resistance through the neutral zone or at the blue line. They will try to use their speed to force the Jackets into mistakes. Whoever is most disciplined will have the best chance of earning the two points.