The Columbus Blue Jackets will begin their annual west coast road trip with eyes on starting a new point streak.
Despite having their 12-game point streak snapped on Saturday by the San Jose Sharks at Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets head to California with optimism. Their first three opponents, the Los Angeles Kings (Monday), Anaheim Ducks (Tuesday), and San Jose Sharks (Thursday), are currently occupying the three bottom spots in the Western Conference. The Vegas Golden Knights, on the other hand, are leading the Pacific Divison and are a difficult matchup for any road team.
The club couldn't ask for an easier slate to begin the road trip. Despite the streak-ending home loss to the Sharks on Saturday, the Sharks are 30th in the NHL in 5v5 goal share, as they've scored just 42.55% of goals scored in their 44 contests to date. The Kings (45.22%, 26th) and Ducks (46.54%, 25th) aren't much better.
The club is also receiving some positive medical news, as well. Emil Bemstrom, Cam Atkinson, and Markus Nutivaara all appear on the verge of returning to game action. Atkinson, particularly, would give the club a huge boost offensively, as, aside from Zach Werenski, it's been tough sledding to score consistently, even during the team's successful point streak.
The Blue Jackets head into the road trip just three points out of the second wild-card playoff spot, currently occupied by the Florida Panthers. Stringing together a solid week on the road could put them in a playoff spot, but similarly, a disappointing week against some of the NHL's weakest rosters will put them in a tough spot, as they welcome the powerful Boston Bruins and stingy Carolina Hurricanes among their return to Nationwide Arena.
If the team can find a way to come back to Columbus with six or seven points on the road trip, they'll set themselves up nicely for the rest of an already-shortened January schedule. Coming home with anything worse than five points would be a disappointment as the team will have let some of the worst teams in the NHL off the hook.