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Preview: Looking to Fire on All Cylinders — Against our Rivals

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The Blue Jackets entertain the Sabres at Nationwide Arena Wednesday, looking to end a two-game skid.

NHL: New York Rangers at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets entertain the Buffalo Sabres tonight in that anticipated Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN. Okay, we’re not going to quibble over national TV exposure.

Looking For Improvement

Coach John Tortorella is looking for an improvement from his top-line defense, after the Los Angeles Kings top line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and rookie Alex Iafallo combined for 3-6-9 Saturday night LA’s win over Columbus. All three were a plus-5 rating.

Tortorella following Saturday’s loss:

“I thought that was probably (the Wennberg line’s) worst period of the game when we needed it to be their best period.”

Over the last two days in practice, Nick Foligno has lined up with Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson on the top line. Meanwhile, Alexander Wennberg took to the second line alongside Boone Jenner and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Tortorella has wanted more from the skilled center:

“[Wennberg] has not played hard enough defensively. Wenny is a smart player. He knows where to go. But there comes a point where you just have to compete harder.”

Things could look different again tonight.

Tale of the Tape

The Jackets will also be without the services of center Lukas Sedlak after sustaining an ankle injury Monday at practice. Expected timeline is six-weeks. Buffalo has also dealt with their share of injuries, including missing seven in their lineup, and five on IR.

While the Jackets have been off since Saturday, the Sabres are finishing a home-and-home after their game Tuesday night 1-0 win in Detroit.

The Jackets have two, four-game home stretches this season and is halfway through this one. Meanwhile, after a 0-4-1 start to the season, Buffalo is in the midst of a 3-1-1 stretch and has reeled off two straight wins. In their last three road games, they are 2-0-1.

Wednesday’s matchup is intriguing, as Columbus looks to get back to what was working in the early-going. Buffalo features a top-heavy scoring line—Evander Kane, Jack Eichel, Jason Pominville—putting up 33 points through the teams’ first 10 games. Each has 11.

Pominville is third in the league with five multi-point games. Eichel is T-4th with four, and Kane is T-14th with three.

Ryan Murray is probably looking forward to this game. He broke his hand against the Sabres in a meeting last year between these two.

After all, this is what rivalries are all about, right?

Numbers

  • The Union Blue have not lost three in a row at home since March 11-17 2016--a span of 50 games.
  • Chad Johnson is 5-1-0 all-time versus Columbus. Coincidentally that is the number of even-strength and power-play goals allowed versus the Jackets, as the Jackets are trying to reboot their PP.
  • Robin Lehner is 5-2-0 versus Columbus in seven career games. In that span, he has a .951 save percentage, and 1.81 goals-against average. Lehner currently rides a shutout streak of 91:35.
  • In four home games thus far, Columbus is perfect on the penalty kill (9-for-9).

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres
Evander Kane Jack Eichel Kyle Okposo
Sam Reinhart Ryan O'Reilly Jason Pominville
Matt Moulson Johan Larsson Seth Griffith
Jordan Nolan Benoit Pouliot Justin Bailey
Marco Scandella Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake Mccabe Taylor Fedun
Viktor Antipin Matt Tennyson
Chad Johnson
Robin Lehner
Columbus Blue Jackets
Artemi Panarin Nick Foligno Cam Atkinson
Boone Jenner Alexander Wennberg Oliver Bjorkstrand
Pierre-Luc Dubois Brandon Dubinsky Josh Anderson
Matt Calvert Zac Dalpe Sonny Milano
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Jack Johnson David Savard
Ryan Murray Markus Nutivaara
Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo