Earlier this week, the Wild were more than ready for the Blue Jackets.
31–25–7 (69 points)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7 P.M. – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28
FOX SPORTS OHIO
FOX SPORTS GO
Minnesota built a 4-1 lead headed into the third period, thanks to a dying-seconds goal from Mikko Koivu to close out the second. The outlook was bleak for the Blue Jackets, who 24 hours earlier had snapped an eight-game losing streak with an overtime win over the Ottawa Senators. Momentum was the goal for Columbus, whose playoff hopes were (are) on the ropes – and they nearly pulled off a wild (sorry) comeback in the final 20 minutes.
It just didn't happen.
The Blue Jackets clawed back to 4-3, then gave up a back-breaker to fall behind by two goals again with little time remaining. Zach Werenski's 19th goal of the season (leading all NHL defensemen) made it a one-goal lame again, but with Matiss Kivlenieks on the bench for an extra attacker, the Wild were able to hold off the Blue Jackets' late push.
That was then, this is now. Points are at a premium. The Blue Jackets' position is hardly stable; they've played three more games than teams like the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Carolina Hurricanes – though Columbus does have a two-point buffer on the second wild card spot for the time being.
Games in hand only matter if you win them, but the Blue Jackets don't want to keep rolling the dice like this. They need to win games and this ill-timed slide is making their furious push to the playoffs far more difficult. If there's a time to bank points, it would be this home game against Minnesota and then move on to the next one – but as we've seen lately, for this time, that's much easier said than done.
Here's a look at tonight's projected lines for the Blue Jackets:
- New Addition? The Blue Jackets sent Calvin Thurkauf back to Cleveland (AHL) on Thursday, meaning they have a forward spot to fill for tonight's game. Alexander Wennberg has been skating with the team and Cam Atkinson is nearing a return, but it's unclear whether one of them will be ready to go.
- Better Start. They're going to need a better first period than Monday, and also, better than Tuesday. It's a Friday night game at home in the middle of a playoff race. There's no excuse for the Blue Jackets to stub their toes in the opening 20 minutes tonight.
- Time's a Wasting. What's been curiously absent from the Blue Jackets' game lately is urgency. They're in the thick of the chase for a playoff spot and don't have a firm grasp on their destiny by any means, but they've started slow (see above) and haven't been the simple, direct team that went 19-2-5. As the season winds down and the points become even more important, we're looking to see a little more fire from the Jackets.