10–15–5 (25 points; .417%)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7:00 P.M. – MONDAY, DECEMBER 20
BALLY SPORTS OHIO
ESPN+ (Out of Market)
After a postponement Saturday as a result of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets are back on the ice to finish what is now a four-game road trip Monday evening when they battle the Buffalo Sabres from the KeyBank Center in western New York.
While Saturday's postponement was due to virus issues for the Calgary Flames, it's the Blue Jackets who now find themselves short-handed. The club announced Sunday that forwards Boone Jenner and Jack Roslovic, as well as defenseman Gabriel Carlsson, are in the COVID-19 protocol and will miss Monday's game. Citing an abundance of caution, Columbus also cancelled Sunday's practice.
With Adam Boqvist and Dean Kukan not yet back from their injuries (though both seem close), it looks like Buffalo will be the site of Jake Christiansen's NHL debut. The 22-year-old defenseman is having a "monster" year in Cleveland, tallying 18 points in 21 games for Columbus' AHL affiliate. The size and speed are there, and it's not out of the realm to think that this may be more than a temporary call-up if Christiansen is as advertised.
|42.4%||MONEYPUCK'S ODDS TO WIN||57.6%|
|49.0%||THE 538'S ODDS TO WIN||51.0%|
|84.9||82-GAME POINT PACE||68.3|
...sort of. Buffalo is on a season-high four-game point streak, and while only one of those four has been a regulation win, all of them have been against quality opponents. The streak started with a shootout loss to the Washington Capitals, who are tied for the league lead in points. Other points have come against Minnesota (7th in the NHL in point percentage), Pittsburgh (t-9th), and Winnipeg (t-17th).
They haven't been scoring their way to the streak — the Sabres have tallied two, four, three, and two in the four games, respectively. The blue line has been efficient, but the goaltending has been considerably better. Buffalo has allowed three or less goals six consecutive games; prior to that, the Sabres had allowed five or more goals in seven of nine games, including seven to the Blue Jackets in a 7-4 loss November 22nd.
The goaltending has been compliments of 22-year-old Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. During the six games of three of less goals, Luukkonen has been between the pipes for five of them. The Finland native has allowed two goals in all five starts — his only starts of the season — and has a 1.96 goals against and .939 save percentage.
Offensively, Kyle Okposo became the first Buffalo player to hit 20 points on the season with an assist in Friday's overtime loss to Pittsburgh. He leads the team with 14 assists. Tage Thompson leads the Sabres with ten goals, two of which came in the loss to Columbus.
Monday will be the Buffalo debut of Alex Tuch, who was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in the Jack Eichel trade earlier in the season. Tuch had 18 goals and 15 assists in 55 games with Vegas during the 2020-21 season.
No Jenner, no Roslovic. Two players missing at an important position, and one the Blue Jackets already have a significant weakness at. Whoever skates to the dot can take some solace in knowing that the Sabres rank 30th of 32 in winning the draw.
FLOUNDERING PENALTY KILL
Columbus has allowed six power play goals in their opponents' last 12 man-advantages. The Blue Jackets have moved down to 22nd in the ever-important penalty kill percentage, and are one more bad game away from dropping as low as 27th. The penalty kill has to be on point.
Christiansen can play. Just a few weeks ago, the case was made for him to get a shot at the main roster. The reason why stinks, but this is a good opportunity for Christiansen to prove that the trip south on I-71 should be a one-way drive. Keep an eye on the kid, and let's see if the Blue Jackets may have one less spot to worry about on the blue line as the season carries on.
|42||Alexandre Texier||16||Max Domi||28||Oliver Bjorkstrand|
|14||Gustav Nyquist||17||Justin Danforth||93||Jakub Voracek|
|50||Eric Robinson||7||Sean Kuraly||15||Gregory Hofmann|
|52||Emil Bemstrom||34||Cole Sillinger||59||Yegor Chinakhov|
|8||Zach Werenski||22||Jake Bean|
|44||Vladislav Gavrikov||5||Gavin Bayreuther|
|32||Jake Christiansen||2||Andrew Peeke|
|70||Joonas Korpisalo||90||Elvis Merzlikins|
*SUBJECT TO CHANGE
THE BEST GUESS
This is a tough one to figure out, in part because it's hard to say who may play and who won't. Columbus is struggling, and Buffalo is playing their best hockey since the first week of the season. With a full lineup, the Blue Jackets win this game. Shifting lines and missing players spells another loss, unfortunately. Buffalo 3, Columbus 1
(On The Year: 1-0)