Game Preview #55 - One More For The Road

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

The Jackets' home-stand ends tonight as the Florida Panthers make their first visit of the year to Nationwide.

Florida Panthers at Columbus Blue Jackets

February 1, 2014 - 7:00 pm EST
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Litter Box Cats
SBN's Panthers vs Blue Jackets Coverage

Oddly enough, the Jackets' next two home games are against these Florida Panthers. The wrinkle? They're one month--in this case, four weeks to the day--apart, thanks to a road trip next week and then the Olympic break. Here's hoping there's a good crowd, as this is a send-off of sorts.

The Jackets stopped the bleeding of their three game losing streak with some gusto on Thursday, as despite getting out-shot heavily in the third period they dropped five goals on the Caps and won the game going away. In theory, they should be able to start another winning streak tonight, as frankly, the Panthers are flat-out awful. Pound for pound, they might be the worst team in hockey overall.

Look at the rankings below: 27th in the league in both scoring and defense, last on the Power Play (the only team below 10%), and second to last on the Penalty Kill. Ryan Johansen has just four fewer goals than the leading scorer (Brad Boyes) on Florida has POINTS. Florida has just three players with double-digit goals (Boyes leads with 14), and the Jackets' top three goal scorers all have as many or more than their leader.

In short, this Panthers club is a bad, bad hockey team. Granted, since their dreadful 3-11-4 start, they have a winning record at 18-15-3, but that is thanks mostly to a streak of seven wins in eight games back in early December. Take that stretch out, and this club is 14-24-7 overall... or, pretty dreadful.

But, as we've seen with the likes of Buffalo, that doesn't mean anything. That said, the Panthers are scuffling a bit right now, as they have lost three of four (only win came in a shootout against the enigmatic Wings) and seven of 12 overall, and in the last two they've gotten destroyed by Boston and Toronto by a combined total of 12-5. They raced out to an early 2-0 lead in Toronto the other night, only to see the Leafs roar back with five unanswered goals to run away with the game. Not so good.

The Jackets get David Savard back on the blue line, but otherwise everything else will be the same from Thursday. If they play like they did for the first 40 minutes in which they basically toyed with Washington, they should win this game handily. The Jackets have the edge in all facets of this game on paper, and it will be up to them to be as hungry as they were early on Thursday to show that and leave no doubt.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(27-23-4, 58 Points; 4th division, 9th conference)

Nick Foligno Artem Anisimov R.J. Umberger
Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Nathan Horton
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Derek MacKenzie Mark Letestu Corey Tropp
Fedor Tyutin Jack Johnson
Ryan Murray James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin David Savard
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Florida Panthers
(21-26-7, 49 Points; 7th Division, 15th Conference)

Drew Shore Nick Bjugstad Scottie Upshall
Sean Bergenheim Aleksander Barkov Brad Boyes
Jonathan Huberdeau Marcel Goc Jesse Winchester
Tomas Kopecky Shawn Matthias Krys Barch
Brian Campbell Tom Gilbert
Erik Gudbranson Ed Jovanovski
Dmitry Kulikov Mike Weaver
Tim Thomas
Scott Clemmensen

Season Series

02/01/14 - Florida at Columbus
03/01/14 - Florida at Columbus
04/12/14 - Columbus at Florida

Head to Head Stats

Florida Columbus
2.32 (27) GPG 2.87 (8)
3.06 (27) GAPG 2.82 (17)
9.0% (30) PP% 18.5% (16)
76.9% (29) PK% 80.7% (18)
Brad Boyes, 14 G leader Ryan Johansen, 21
Tom Gilbert, 22 A leader James Wisniewski, 28
Brad Boyes, 25 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 40
Erik Gudbranson, 76 PIM leader Nick Foligno, 81
11-15-3 Road/Home 15-11-2
1/30 @ Toronto, L 6-3 Last Game 1/30 vs. Washington, W 5-2
4-5-1 Last 10 7-3-0
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