Game Preview: 5th Line Returns To Nationwide Arena As Desperate Blue Jackets Host Red Wings

By Ed Francis on March 2, 2021 at 7:05 am
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand controls the puck as Detroit Red Wings defenseman Filip Hronek defends during the first meeting of the season between the two teams.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Strictly from a points per game angle, Tuesday's match-up between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings is one between the two worst teams in the Central Division.

7–14–3 (17 points)

7 P.M. – TUESDAY, MAR. 2


But as a limited number of fans make their way back to Nationwide Arena for a hockey game for the first time in one year and one day, there is a fact that can't be denied: the Blue Jackets are the better team -- or at least they should be. 

They've got highly-skilled defenders like Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, world-class scorers like Patrik Laine and Patrik Laine: Power Play Edition. Cam Atkinson and Oliver Bjorkstrand aren't bad, either. 

Detroit, meanwhile, is lead by the likes of Bobby Ryan, Dylan Larkin, and Anthony Mantha, Not a bad forward trio, but not even close to the Blue Jackets (potential) ability. Filip Hronek leads the blue line for the Red Wings; a far cry from Columbus' supposed lockdown line of Jones and Werenski.

The numbers don't lie, though. While Columbus is scoring at a little more than a half goal per game better than the Red Wings are, the goals allowed is an entirely different story. In fact, Detroit's 3.25 goals against per game is better than Columbus, no matter how you count the goals: the Blue Jackets are allowing 3.26 goals per game in regulation and overtime, or 3.35 per game if the shootout score is counted.

Columbus will hope to not only limit Detroit's 30th-of-31 ranked offense to their average of just over two goals per game, but will also seek to score more than two for the first time in three games. If they can do that, it will be the end of a five game losing streak, and two points for a Blue Jackets team that desperately needs them.

Here's a look at tonight's projected lines for Columbus:

Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines

29 Patrik Laine 71 Nick Foligno 28 Oliver Bjorkstrand
38 Boone Jenner 96 Jack Roslovic 13 Cam Atkinson
50 Eric Robinson 42 Alexandre Texier 52 Emil Bemstrom
16 Max Domi 11 Kevin Stenlund 20 Riley Nash

*lines are subject to change

8 Zach Werenski 3 Seth Jones
44 Vladislav Gavrikov 58 David Savard
53 Gabriel Carlsson 15 Michael Del Zotto
Goalie Backup
70 Joonas Korpisalo 35 Veini Vehvilainen


  • SCORE GOALS AND SHOOT THE PUCK: What a concept, right? The Columbus Blue Jackets have just two goals over the last 180 minutes of hockey, and went scoreless in eight power play opportunities during those three games. As Mattias Ekholm of the Nashville Predators showed over the weekend, sometimes just shooting the puck does the trick: he scored his first two goals of the season in Saturday's 2-1 win over Columbus, with both goals coming from near the blue line. Columbus ranks 25th in shots per game. Don't be so tentative; shoot the puck! 
  • BUT ALSO, DON'T ALLOW SO MANY SHOTS: Ranking 25th in shots per game is fine if it's balanced by a defense that limits scoring opportunities, but at 32 shots allowed per game, the Blue Jackets also are 25th in shots allowed this season. The defense has been rocky, at best, and trouble with both clearing the puck and not giving the puck away have doomed Columbus all season long. Shots and shots allowed aren't the end-all, be-all, but they sure do help. 
  • WELCOME BACK, 5TH LINE: Just under 2,000 fans will be in attendance Tuesday, the first time in the Blue Jackets 20th season that they'll play a home game with the 5th Line in the building to support them. The television spots say the team misses its fans; let's see what welcoming gift the team can give them.