Game Preview: Down Two Veteran Forwards, Jekyll & Hyde Blue Jackets Seek To Strike Lightning Again

By Ed Francis on April 8, 2021 at 7:05 am
The Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning meet again Thursday at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
26-11-2 (54 points)



After a 1-5 road trip, the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets returned to Nationwide Arena on Tuesday hurting for a win.

They got it, but are now hurting in a more traditional way. 

On the same day it was announced that veteran forward Riley Nash would miss the remainder of the season with a sprained knee, another veteran forward, Boone Jenner, was the victim of friendly fire in the third period of Tuesday's 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Like Nash, Jenner will also miss the remainder of the season, per head coach John Tortorella. 

In Thursday's rematch with the Lightning, the "next man up" mentality will certainly be put to the test. Mikhail Grigorenko, Zac Dalpe, and Liam Foudy - three regulars on the taxi squad this season - are expected to make up the Blue Jackets 4th line. It's not a line that is likely to produce a goal, but Dalpe did beat Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tuesday's contest for his first NHL goal in over 1600 days.

The win, which was Columbus' 3rd over Tampa Bay this season in just five games, briefly put the Blue Jackets just three points out of the final playoff spot in the Central Division. But the surging Nashville Predators gained two points just minutes later, and reestablished a five point lead over the Blue Jackets in the nearly-out of sight playoff race for Tortorella's club.

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

Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines

29  Patrik Laine 42 Alexandre Texier 28  Oliver Bjorkstrand
50 Eric Robinson 16 Max Domi 71 Nick Foligno
11 Kevin Stenlund 96 Jack Roslovic 13 Cam Atkinson
25 Mikhail Grigorenko 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 15 Michael Del Zotto
Goalie Backup
90 Elvis Merzlikins 70 Joonas Korpisalo


  • JEKYLL OR HYDE?: As the headline above indicates, and as any 5th Liner can tell you, there are two very different versions of this Blue Jackets team. They struggled mightily with the last place Detroit Red Wings just over a week ago. Those two losses were part of a 1-6-1 skid for the team, sinking any realistic hopes of a 5th consecutive postseason. But against the otherwise dominate Lightning? The Blue Jackets are 3-1-1 - by point percentage, that's their best record against any team in the division. Columbus averages 3.2 goals per game against Tampa and have allowed an average of just 2.2 against the defending Stanley Cup champions, both of which are are the Jackets' best marks against any opponent this season. 
  • WHAT'S IN A LINE?: The lineup has changed regularly this season as Tortorella has desperately sought a combination that works, but now injuries are forcing the head coach's hand, and the Blue Jackets lineup card may look a little different come game time. With no Nash and no Jenner, for the remainder of the season, Columbus is down a pair of forwards that have stayed healthy and a fixture in the lineup in recent seasons. It will be an odd sight, for sure, to see the team without either on the ice.
  • WHAT'S IN A LAINE?: Paging Patrik Laine, paging Patrike Laine. The Blue Jackets best weapon offense has been anything but in the last few weeks, going 13 straight games without a goal. It's the second longest drought of his NHL career, and one that he - and the Blue Jackets - would love to see come to an abrupt end. Possibly more concerning is the lack of scoring chances he's had, recording just 21 shots over the 13 games and being held off the shot chart entirely in Tuesday's game. At 2:28:45 of ice time during the drought, the 22-year-old is approaching four hours on the ice without a goal. Woof. 

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