The Battle Ahead: Back-to-Back Matinees

By Jacob Nitzberg on January 31, 2020 at 2:32 pm
Jan 19, 2020; New York, New York, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Cam Atkinson (13) takes a shot during the first period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
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Columbus Blue Jacket hockey is finally back (tomorrow).

It's been nine days since the Blue Jackets last played a game, and that's nine days too long if you ask me. Last week, Columbus won their lone game before the All-Star break, extending their winning streak to six games. 

Last Week:

  • vs. WPG (W, 4-3)

This week, or weekend if you will, the Blue Jackets have a back-to-back against two struggling teams in the Buffalo Sabres and the Montreal Canadiens.

Let's take a look at this weekend, which the Blue Jackets enter with a record of 27-16-8, good for 62 points and the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Saturday, February 1st @ Buffalo (22-22-7, 51 points.)

  • Season Series: CBJ 1-0-0 
  • Buffalo's Last Five Games: 2-3-0

In their first game back since the break, the Blue Jackets will head to Buffalo to take on the Sabres. Jack Eichel is putting together a fantastic season (30-34-64), but he's not getting much help apart from Sam Reinhart (18-24-42) and Victor Olofsson (16-19-35, currently injured).

On October 7th in the two teams' lone meeting this year, the Blue Jackets emerged victorious thanks to Alexandre Texier's overtime heroics.

Elvis Merzlikins will likely get the start, and he'll look to continue his red-hot performance as of late. Puck drop is slated for 1:00 p.m.

Sunday, February 2nd @ Montreal (23-22-7, 53 points.)

  • Season Series: CBJ 1-0-1
  • Montreal's Last Five Games: 3-2-0

After the Blue Jackets take on the Sabres, it'll be a quick turnaround as they head to Montreal for a 2:00 p.m. start time on Sunday. 

Like the Blue Jackets, the Canadiens have heavily balanced scoring. They have seven skaters with at least 11 goals, but no one has more than 18 (Thomas Tatar).

Montreal's problems lie on the defensive side of the puck. With a GAA of 2.80 and a save percentage of .908%, goaltender Carey Price is having a difficult season. 

The teams have met twice already this season. On November 12th in Montreal, the Canadiens were victorious in a shootout, 3-2. A week later, the Blue Jackets got revenge at Nationwide Arena, winning 5-2. 

It's likely that John Tortorella will have Merzlikins start this game as well. If he shows signs of rust against the Sabres, it's also possible that Matiss Kivlenieks could get his second NHL start.

What are your predictions for this week? Let us know!

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