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Game Preview #59 - Finish Strong

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The Jackets are riding a six-game points streak, and have points in nine of 10 (6-1-3). They finish a five-game home stand tonight.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jackets vs. Sabres
7:00 PM -
Game Faceoff

I remember when the schedule came out, I looked at this stretch of games as an important stretch for Columbus. Coming out of the break, they got to knock out the Western Canada trip after having the rest, and then they had five games at home with no back-to-backs. This was a stretch I was looking to for the playoff push. Right before the deadline, make a move, see what you need.

It's been an important stretch, but for a different reason. We've seen John Tortorella ice the same lineup almost nightly for awhile now. The Jackets have protected their home ice, including beating a surging Anaheim team. They have had answers when tested. If we're trying to find the moral victories in a late-season surge of good play, they're here.

In comes Buffalo, which after tanking for two straight years finds themselves in the same spot: identical record as Columbus, fighting with Toronto for the bottom of the Atlantic. Jack Eichel has been good. Yet, some of the Sabres' problems remain (goaltending post-Ryan Miller being the biggest one). Ironically, Arizona got pushed out of the top two in the draft, missing out on the two stud players, and yet they are the best of the three teams. But that's another topic for another time.

I don't call this a "measuring stick" game or anything, but it's been nice to see good, competitive hockey these past few weeks. It's been nice to see a consistent lineup (Torts Line BlenderTM has been conspicuously absent for awhile). It's been nice to see some young guys progress.

We often hear about "The Process". Torts is big on "The Process". Part of the process is learning to win at home (don't look now, the Jackets are .500 at home) and learning to beat the teams you should beat. The Sabres might have more raw talent than Columbus, but in my mind the way Columbus is playing right now, this is a team we should beat.

Finish strong, boys.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(23-28-7, 53 Points; 8th division, 15th conference)

Boone Jenner Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell Alexander Wennberg Brandon Saad
Matt Calvert William Karlsson Nick Foligno
Rene Bourque Gregory Campbell Kerby Rychel
Ryan Murray Seth Jones
Jack Johnson David Savard
Fedor Tyutin Dalton Prout
Joonas Korpisalo
Curtis McElhinney

Buffalo Sabres
(23-28-7, 53 Points; 7th Division, 14th Conference)

Evander Kane Ryan O'Reilly Sam Reinhart
Jamie McGinn Jack Eichel Zemgus Girgensons
Marcus Foligno Johan Larsson Brian Gionta
Nicolas Deslauriers David Legwand Matt Moulson
Josh Gorges Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe Zach Bogosian
Mark Pysyk Cody Franson
Robin Lehner
Chad Johnson