Game Preview: Blue Jackets Seeking Just Second Win Over Panthers As Teams Meet For The 8th And Final Time This Season

By Ed Francis on April 20, 2021 at 7:05 am
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (90) blocks the shot of Florida Panthers left wing Mason Marchment (19) during the third period at BB&T Center.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
29-12-5 (63 points)

7:00 P.M. – TUESDAY, APRIL 20


Entering this season, the Columbus Blue Jackets had defeated the Florida Panthers in nine of the last ten matchups.

Entering tonight, the Blue Jackets have defeated the Panthers just once in the seven games between the two teams since the season opened in January.

What a difference a year makes.

The two teams will conclude their eight games against each other from the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Tuesday night, as the Blue Jackets will look to end a six game losing streak. Columbus, who sat at 13-12-7 exactly one month ago, is now in last place in the Central Division, with a 15-23-9 record and the losers of a tiebreaker with the Detroit Red Wings to determine who is in the basement.

Columbus fell 4-2 to the Panthers on Monday night, but the game was closer than the score indicated. It was one of the more inspiring efforts from the Blue Jackets as of late, though that isn't saying much. Zac Dalpe scored his second of the season, Oliver Bjorkstrand took the team lead with his 15th on the campaign, and Elvis Merzlikins made a bevy of saves that kept the game close into the final minutes. 

Former Jackets Alexander Wennberg and Anthony Duclair have had success against their previous employer this year, combining for 11 points in 10 total games the duo has appeared in. 

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

Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines

28 Oliver Bjorkstrand 26 Zac Dalpe 29 Patrik Laine
16 Max Domi 96 Jack Roslovic 13 Cam Atkinson
50 Eric Robinson 42 Alexandre Texier 25 Mikhail Grigorenko
23 Stefan Matteau 21 Josh Dunne 88 Kole Sherwood 

*lines are subject to change

15 Michael Del Zotto 3 Seth Jones
44 Vladislav Gavrikov 4 Scott Harrington
7 Gavin Bayreuther 2 Andrew Peeke
Goalie Backup
70 Joonas Korpisalo 90 Elvis Merzlikins


  • LAWN DARTS: On his way out, John Tortorella seems to be choosing the Columbus lineup through a game of lawn darts. Patrik Laine and Stefan Matteau were paired up in Monday's loss, with Matteau seeing more than 17 minutes of ice time, a season high by several minutes. Zac Dalpe scored and a had a career-high six shots on net in the first game of the series, so seeing him at the top of the lines and next to Laine seems as plausible as anything anything. 
  • TIME TO FIND YOUR GOALIE: In the debate between Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo for which goalie the Blue Jackets should make their long-term guy, the correct answer may actually be Daniil Tarasov, but that's another story for another time. For now, the two goalies the Blue Jackets have in the big leagues have had very average seasons. Merzlikins has been slightly better across the board: His 2.98 goals against average is noticeably better than Korpi's 3.21, and his .910 save percentage outdoes Korpisalo's .896. The Blue Jackets have to commit to one at some point - if they're leaning towards Elvis, expect to see him get a majority of the starts from here out. 
  • PLAYING FOR KEEPS: There isn't much motivation to win as a team, but there certainly is motivation amongst specific players as the season finishes up. Is Josh Dunne ready to be a regular NHL player? Will Michael Del Zotto get his wish and be resigned this offseason? Is Gavin Bayreuther a player that the Jackets will keep in the fold? These guys, amongst others, are playing for their NHL careers in varying degrees. Keep an eye on them these final nine games.

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