Game Preview: Blue Jackets Seek a Bounce-Back Effort in the Series Finale Against the Florida Panthers

By Rob Mixer on April 4, 2021 at 7:05 am
Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Eric Robinson (50) skates with the puck against the Florida Panthers during the first period at BB&T Center.
Sam Navarro – USA TODAY Sports
25–9–4 (54 points)

5:00 P.M. – SUNDAY, APRIL 4


The Blue Jackets are playing better, but now is the time when results are of paramount importance.

They played three decent-to-strong periods last night at BB&T Center. Elvis Merzlikins wasn't as sharp as he was Thursday against Tampa Bay, but aside from one shot (the 3-0 goal), he gave his team a chance. It's also a tough spot when you're scoring 1-2 goals per game and forced to be essentially perfect. 

On the night he was honored for his 500th NHL game, Sergei Bobrovsky was strong. The Blue Jackets didn't do enough to generate offense, despite out-shooting and out-playing the Panthers for long stretches, which is something they'll have to rectify if they have sights on winning the series finale this afternoon. 

It's a broken record, but it's true: time is running out on the Blue Jackets. They took steps in the right direction last week in Tampa Bay, but those are just steps. It's past time to bank points and put a run together with the trade deadline looming in a week, and difficult decision with the roster on the horizon. The schedule doesn't get any easier and the games don't get any less important from here on in, and the Blue Jackets need a results-based performance to hang around. 

Otherwise, the lights will start to get dim quickly.

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

Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines

50 Eric Robinson 16 Max Domi 29 Patrik Laine
28 Oliver Bjorkstrand 96 Jack Roslovic* 13 Cam Atkinson
38 Boone Jenner 42 Alexandre Texier 71 Nick Foligno
26 Zac Dalpe 20 Riley Nash 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


  • CAPITALIZE ON THE START: Thursday in Tampa and even last night, the Blue Jackets were the better team in the first period. The issue is taking advantage of those quality starts, and playing with a lead for a change. No games are easy in the Central Division, but they're even more difficult when you're playing from behind.
  • BEAR DOWN: Carrying the play is encouraging. Creating chances is even better. But the Blue Jackets must find a way to get pucks in the net–there's no other way around it. They had nearly 50 shots on goal in last night's 5-2 loss, but how many of those were quality chances? Very few. 
  • GOALIE & LINEUP DECISION: John Tortorella made a healthy scratch of Jack Roslovic on Saturday night, saying he wasn't a fan of any aspect of his game of late. Elvis Merzlikins was pulled for Joonas Korpisalo after two periods (only one goal can truly be pinned on his shoulders). Columbus opted for 11 forwards and seven defensemen, then sat Dean Kukan for the majority of the second and third periods. It's not a stretch to think today's lineup could look markedly different, as well.

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