2-4-3 (7 points)
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7:00 P.M. – SUNDAY, JAN. 31
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The Blue Jackets are picking up points, and on Friday night, they had their goaltender to thank.
Joonas Korpisalo was outstanding in their 2-1 win over the Blackhawks, picking up the slack for a team that had tired legs after a busy stretch of games. They scored a power play goal, too, thanks to Oliver Bjorkstrand–who appears to be heating up himself.
John Tortorella doesn't want his team making a habit of games like that, but it was reassuring to see their goaltending be able to rescue them when they need it. Korpisalo's game is sharp right now, but he's expected to step aside as part of their rotation tonight, as Elvis Merzlikins will start the second of this two-game set at United Center.
And this game appeared to have some doubt over it earlier this weekend.
The Blackhawks canceled practice Saturday "out of abundance of caution" due to a potential exposure of COVID-19. They eventually placed two players, defenseman Nicolas Beaudin and forward Ryan Carpenter, on the COVID-19 protocol list adding to the three Chicago players already on the list. As of Sunday morning, this game was scheduled to be played as scheduled.
For the Blue Jackets, they want to keep on keeping on–but there are areas of their game that need work. They haven't been particularly sharp 5-on-5, but they're getting goals from all over the lineup. Eric Robinson, part of a fourth line with Riley Nash and Mikko Koivu that's earned the trust of Tortorella, scored a big 2-0 goal in the second period Friday–a good sign for him, as he's had plenty of opportunities early on in the season.
The Blue Jackets have also found some consistency with their forward lines, which is to say they haven't busted them apart in a couple of games. Progress!
Patrik Laine has arrived in Columbus and undergoing his 48-hour quarantine period, with an expectation he will make his Blue Jackets debut Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena against the Dallas Stars.
Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines
|71||Nick Foligno||42||Alexandre Texier||28||Oliver Bjorkstrand|
|25||Mikhail Grigorenko||16||Max Domi||19||Liam Foudy|
|38||Boone Jenner||96||Jack Roslovic||13||Cam Atkinson|
|50||Eric Robinson||9||Mikko Koivu||20||Riley Nash|
|8||Zach Werenski||3||Seth Jones|
|44||Vladislav Gavrikov||58||David Savard|
|15||Michael Del Zotto||46||Dean Kukan|
|90||Elvis Merzlikins||70||Joonas Korpisalo|
- IT AIN'T BROKE: Tortorella continues to get questions about his approach to the goaltending tandem, but he's been steadfast in maintaining it works. Both Korpisalo and Merzlikins have gotten proper rest, they've been playing well of late, and they're giving the Blue Jackets opportunities to hang around in games. Think of how bad Tuesday's game could have been if not for Korpisalo. Yikes.
- CREATE YOUR OWN ENERGY: Usually, getting amped up for a game at United Center is no problem. The building is jammed with 22,000-plus and the anthem is an experience in itself. But with no fans in the rink, the hockey has been...casual at times. Friday's game didn't crank it up until the third period when Chicago made a push, and the Blue Jackets have yet to find a consistent energy level themselves.
- SPECIAL TEAMS: The Blue Jackets didn't face much of a threat from the Blackhawks until they started putting them on the power play. Thankfully, their penalty killing has been excellent. Keep this game 5-on-5, draw a few penalties, and capitalize.
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