Of all the issues that you could have predicted the Blue Jackets to have this season, defensive zone coverage was an unlikely candidate.
But after 17 games, they find themselves giving up 3.47 goals per game, which is good for 26th in the NHL. They don't have the offensive firepower to get into shootouts every game, so they need to be better defensively if they want to right the ship.
John Tortorella thinks that it's a positioning issue, and that it doesn't have to do with effort.
"I think the word is just a concentration of a detail of positioning. That's been with us for most of the year...a lot of people throw out the words that they didn't work hard enough," said Tortorella after the Blue Jackets were shelled by the Hurricanes on Monday night. "When you lose 7-3, people are thinking that you didn't put effort in. I have no problem with the effort. I just have problems with the consistency of concentration."
With that in mind, Tortorella has shuffled his lineup tonight as the Blue Jackets look to get back on the right track against the Predators.
Mikhail Grigorenko will draw in for Stefan Matteau, who returned to the taxi squad after playing against Carolina on Monday night. The Russian winger will be elevated to the second line with Kevin Stenlund and Oliver Bjorkstrand.
This means that Max Domi will play on the fourth line, with Eric Robinson and Riley Nash. “It’s a concern,” Tortorella said. “I’m sure it’s a concern of Max’s, too." Domi, who was dealt for Josh Anderson during the offseason, has struggled mightily in Columbus. He's tallied 2-4-6 in 17 games this season, while Anderson has notched 9-2-11 in 15 games for Montreal.
Defensively, Scott Harrington will go in for Dean Kukan. He'll play with David Savard tonight. The other pairings are Seth Jones with Vladislav Gavrikov, and Michael Del Zotto with Andrew Peeke.
Elvis Merzlikins will get the start in net tonight. The Latvian netminder is 2-2-1 with a 2.95 GAA and .906 save percentage, and it'll be his first start since January 31st. Joonas Korpisalo will back up Merzlikins as he gets a well-earned rest.
Nashville is 2-6 in their last 8 games, and they're giving up 4 goals per game during that stretch while only scoring 2.38 goals per game. This is a great opportunity for the Blue Jackets to fix their inconsistency.