Preview: Blue Jackets at Sabres
The Columbus Blue Jackets have lost back-to-back games for the first time since just after Christmas and hope to get their offense going again when they visit the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night. The Blue Jackets saw their 10-game point streak end Saturday with a 2-1 loss to Colorado and followed that up with an overtime setback by the same score against red-hot Tampa Bay on Monday.
“Obviously, we need to be able to put the puck into the net a little bit more,” forward Oliver Bjorkstrand told the Columbus Dispatch after Monday’s defeat. “It’s kind of been a theme the last few games. … I thought we played a good game. Just got to score a little bit more.” The Blue Jackets, who continue to get hit by the injury bug as All-Star defenseman Seth Jones (two months) and right wing Cam Atkinson (two-to-three weeks) suffered ankle injuries last week, hold down the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and are two points out of third place in the Metropolitan Division. Buffalo sit 11 points out of the second wild-card spot in the East despite earning points in four of the past six games (3-2-1), following a 3-2 victory over NHL-worst Detroit on Tuesday. “We can’t rely on (leading scorer Jack Eichel’s) line to carry it all the time,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger told the Buffalo News. “For us to rise up to the challenges ahead here with teams, these four-point games coming up here against Columbus, against Toronto, teams like that where we can really make a move here, we need everybody involved offensively and defensively.”
TIME: 7 p.m. ET. TV: FS Ohio, MSG Buffalo
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (30-17-10): Bjorkstrand had the lone goal against Tampa Bay to take over the team lead with 18, one more than leading scorer Pierre-Luc Dubois (43 points) and defenseman Zach Werenski. Rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikins (12-7-5) continues to give his team a chance to win with a 3-1-1 record and .946 save percentage in February while Joonas Korpisalo (17-10-4) gets closer to a return from the injured list. Speedy forward Liam Foudy, the 18th pick in the 2018 draft, had two shots in 10 minutes, 23 seconds of ice time in his NHL debut Monday before being sent back to London of the Ontario Hockey League.
ABOUT THE SABRES (25-24-8): Eichel has four assists in the last three games and 12 of his team-leading 70 points in the past 10 contests while sitting tied for sixth in the league with 31 goals entering Wednesday. Forward Sam Reinhart scored the winning goal Tuesday to give him nine tallies in his past 16 games and push his season total to 21 - five more than rookie right wing Victor Olofsson, who could return as soon as Thursday from a lower-body injury that has kept him out since Jan. 2. Carter Hutton (9-9-4, .896 SP) has won three of his four starts in February after going winless in his previous 13 outings.
1. Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin is tied with Rick Hampton (76) for the third-most points as a teenage defenseman in NHL history, and three behind Ray Bourque.
2. The Blue Jackets are just 2-for-22 on the power play the last 10 games, but have killed off 11-of-11 in the past five outings.
3. Sabres F Marcus Johansson had a goal and an assist Tuesday after managing one point in his previous 12 contests.
PREDICTION: Sabres 3, Blue Jackets 2