This morning, the Blue Jackets took to the ice at Nationwide Arena prior to their final home game of the season (and penultimate game of the 2021-22 regular season).
Tonight's matchup is a rematch with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who defeated Columbus 4-1 on Tuesday at Amalie Arena. The Lightning are gearing up for a playoff run where they'll try to win a third consecutive Stanley Cup – and Jon Cooper's team enters this matchup on fire. Tampa's riding a four-game winning streak with a 7-2-1 record in its last 10 games.
Columbus has been banged up all season, and tonight is no different. Let's get into the news and notes from today's morning skate.
Missing Two More Defensemen
Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen announced that defensemen Zach Werenski and Nick Blankenburg will be out for the final two games of the season. Larsen called both of their injuries "minor."
Two more injuries represent a huge blow to the defensive group, and Columbus is down to just six blue-liners who will be available for tonight's game.
With their seasons being done, Blankenburg finishes with a goal and three assists in seven games, while Werenski finishes with 11 goals and career-highs in assists with 37 and points with 48.
Back to Back with the Bolts
The Blue Jackets will play their final home game of the campaign against the Lightning, who have defeated Columbus in regulation in both previous matchups this season.
A 5th Line Farewell
With tonight being the Blue Jackets' last home game of the season, defenseman Andrew Peeke expressed his gratitude to the fans.
"You know, the fans are awesome here," he said. "What they show night in and night out, in this building... we don't take that for granted."
Despite a challenging season that will end with a Blue Jackets playoff berth, fans still showed up in big numbers all year long.
Columbus ranks 17th in the NHL in terms of the percentage of seats filled, according to ESPN. Over the last five games, attendance has been 18,120 vs. Edmonton, 18,116 vs. Ottawa, 16,708 vs. Montreal, 17,118 vs Philadelphia, and 16,396 vs. Boston.
Larsen spoke about the importance of the fans' support at practice today.
"We have tremendous fans," he said. "And they've come out all year. They have. And it's a big boost to our group. They're boisterous. This is such an underrated rink. It's a shame they don't get enough credit for what they do for our group."
You'll see them in the attached tweet here:
And here are the projected power play units, which shuffled a bit without Werenski (who typically quarterbacks the top unit) and Blankenburg (who has seen time on the second unit).