Game Preview: After A Renewed Effort In Tuesday's Win Over Tampa Bay, Blue Jackets Look To Strike Lightning Twice

By Ed Francis on April 1, 2021 at 7:05 am
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand (28) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period at Amalie Arena.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in three nights, the Columbus Blue Jackets meet the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena in the Sunshine State.

24–9–2 (50 points)



The final line of Tuesday's game preview read as followed: "An angry Tampa team and a struggling Columbus squad may well lead to one of only two results: a drubbing at the hands of Stamkos and company, or from the 'just crazy enough to work' department, a surprise 60-minute effort and win from the Blue Jackets."

...surprise! The insertion of Zac Dalpe, Mikko Lehtonen, and Liam Foudy into the lineup was, as it turns out, "just crazy enough to work."

While the Blue Jackets 3-1 win was a total team effort and lineup changes may well have played a part in the win, Elvis Merzlikins was the big story of Tuesday's game, stopping 37 of 38 shots on goal and putting on one of the best performances of his NHL career. 

Columbus head coach John Tortorella will have a decision to make when it comes to who gets the start in Thursday's rematch, but it would be questionable to do anything but start Merzlikins, especially given the day-to-day status of Joonas Korpisalo. Riding on what works, forward lines and defensive pairing are likely to remain identical, as well. 

After winning five straight, the Lightning have now lost three consecutive games for the first time since February of 2020, when the team lost four straight just two weeks before the league took it's long pause for COVID-19. 

Wednesday, the Lightning held a full team practice for the first time in over three weeks. Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said the team was a bit out of sync, but that he was fine with the way his team played in Tuesday's loss.

"Eventually, if you're just playing games at a rapid pace, your game pace slows," said Cooper. "That's what practice can do when you get it is you can pick up your pace, and that's what we hoped to do with today's practice."

While the Lightning are trying to find pace, the Blue Jackets are looking for something else.

"We're chasing consistency right now," said captain Nick Foligno. "I thought (Tuesday) was a step in the right direction. "

Here's a look at tonight's projected (and subject to change) lines for Columbus:

Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines

16 Max Domi 11 Kevin Stenlund 29 Patrik Laine
28 Oliver Bjorkstrand 96 Jack Roslovic 13 Cam Atkinson
38 Boone Jenner 42 Alexandre Texier 71 Nick Foligno
50 Eric Robinson 26 Zac Dalpe 19 Liam Foudy

*lines are subject to change

8 Zach Werenski 3 Seth Jones
44 Vladislav Gavrikov 58 David Savard
43 Mikko Lehtonen 46 Dean Kukan
Goalie Backup
90 Elvis Merzlikins 70 Joonas Korpisalo


  • STUCK ON YOU: Whether or not Joonas Korpisalo will be healthy enough to start for the first time in three games remains to be seen, but regardless, the Blue Jackets seemingly have no choice but to play Elvis Merzlikins in the rematch. He was outstanding, and has earned the right to another start. Columbus is off Friday before starting a back-to-back with the Florida Panthers over the weekend, so Merzly30 will be likely sit Saturday to give the 26-year-old consecutive days off.
  • OLLIE, OLLIE, OLLIVE: Bjorkstrand is finally starting to see a pinch more ice time; his 17:29 on the ice in Tuesday's game was about a half minute above his average, and gave him his team-leading 13th goal and 30th point of the season. Keep giving him the time. because as Bjorkstrand goes, so goes Columbus: The Blue Jackets are 6-1-4 this season when the winger scores.
  • BALANCE THE MINUTES: The top two pairings of defensemen saw nearly identical time on ice Tuesday, with David Savard, Vladislav Gavrikov, Seth Jones, and Zach Werenski (in order of ice time) all seeing 22 minutes and change. It perhaps paid off late in the game when the balanced minutes was able to give the Blue Jackets blue line enough energy to hold off the Tampa Bay effort to get the game to overtime. 

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