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Blue Jackets Contend With Lightning in New Year’s Eve Party

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Before the start of 2018, it’s a matchup of Eastern Conference contenders, as the league-leading Lightning come into Nationwide for a date with Columbus.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday, December 31, 2017 - 6:00 EST
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
TV: Fox Sports Ohio; Radio: 97.1 WBNS FM
Opponent’s Blog: Raw Charge

Tampa Bay Lightning, 27-8-2, 56 points, 1st Atlantic, 1st East

at

Columbus Blue Jackets, 22-14-3, 47 points, 3rd Metro, 6th East

Season Series

10/19/2017 TBL 2 @ CBJ 0
11/4/2017 CBJ @ TBL 5-4 SO
12/31/2017 TBL @ CBJ

Stats

Tampa Bay Columbus
3.70 (1) GPG 2.79 (T-17)
2.49 (T-3) GAPG 2.72 (8)
25.9% (1) PP% 12.2% (31)
78.4% (24) PK% 81.0% (17)
52.12% (8) EV Corsi % 51.27% (10)
102.9 (1) EV PDO 100.0 (17)
Nikita Kucherov, 24 G Leader Josh Anderson, 14
Steven Stamkos, 32 A Leader Artemi Panarin, 24
Nikita Kucherov, 54 P Leader Artemi Panarin, 34
Victor Hedman, 26 PIM Leader Boone Jenner, 29
11-5-1 Home / Road 14-6-0
8-2-0 Last 10 4-4-2

Before we flip the calendar to 2018, the Columbus Blue Jackets have an important matchup with the Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. The Jackets have lost the previous two meetings to Tampa—2-0 Oct. 19 in Columbus and a 5-4 shootout loss Nov. 4 in Tampa— Columbus also comes into play following consecutive disappointing losses.

They blew two, two-goal leads Wednesday against the Penguins, ultimately falling 5-4 in a shootout, and then blew a 3-1 lead Friday night to the struggling Senators, again falling 5-4.

"We're going to have to play a lot better. Those uncharacteristic things that have happened to us the past couple games can't happen to us next game, we know that, because they definitely have the ability to make you pay. But it shouldn't be anything to shy away from. It should be exciting. If you want to be a good team in the league, you've got to beat good teams." — Defenseman Jack Johnson, per Blue Jackets official website

Striking the Competition

Meanwhile, for the Lightning, they had a three-game winning streak snapped by the Flyers their last time out on Friday, and enter New Year’s Eve with a 10-2 mark for the month of December. With 56 points in 37 games and 27 wins, Tampa Bay is off to their best start in franchise history. They lead the NHL in wins, points, goals-per-game (3.70), and are third in goals-allowed (2.49). Tampa is the only NHL team in the top seven for each category.

Their top line is potent, as two of the league’s top four scorers, Nikita Kucherov (54 points, 24 goals, 30 assists) and Steven Stamkos (48 points, 16 goals, 32 assists) line up with up with Vladislav Namestnikov, lethal in his own right with 32 points, 15 goals, and 17 helpers.

Who’s Hot

Seth Jones remains hot, currently riding a career-high six-game point streak (seven points, three goals, four assists), and Sonny Milano has three goals in the past two games. Tampa's Kucherov is on a nine-game point streak (14 points, five goals, nine assists). Tyler Johnson (four points, two goals, two assists) is on a four-game point streak and Brayden Point has found the net his previous two games, coming in on a three-game point streak (three points, two goals, one assist).

Change in Goal?

We will find out the official lineups and starting netminders, but perhaps we get a look at Joonas Korpislao. Columbus embarks on a trip to Dallas and Colorado starting Tuesday, January, 2nd, and after mediocre showings by Sergei Bobrovsky and the Jackets of late, it might be time to get the young goalie back into action. His last start came against the Maple Leafs in a 4-2 win Dec. 20. In a span of four games since, Bobrovsky is 1-1-2, with a .862 save percentage.

The Jackets want to monitor his workload, but after a stretch in November that saw him start eight-straight games and post sterling numbers (6-2-0), Bobrovsky had a two-game break and has been average the previous 12 games since (4-6-2, 3.46 goals-against average, .891 save percentage).

Following Friday night's affair, the goaltender was not void of those players coach John Tortorella said needed to step his game up. While it might be the perfect opportunity to heed the challenge against the top team in the league, we will just have to wait and see.

For Tampa, expect Andrei Vasilevskiy. A Vezina favorite, Vasilevskiy ranks among league-leaders in wins, shutouts, goals-against average, and save percentage. He came in relief of Peter Budaj, who left Friday night’s loss to the Flyers with a leg injury after a collision.

With Budaj out indefinitely, Tampa Bay recalled Louis Domingue from Syracuse Saturday. Prior to a trade in November, Domingue appeared in seven games, and made five starts for the Arizona Coyotes, posting a winless record of 0-6. He seems to have rebounded for the Crunch. In 13 games, he has turned in a 9-4-0 record, 2.39 goals-against average, and .911 save percentage.

Anton Stralman, out the previous two games with a lower-body injury, could make his return to the lineup tonight. The Jackets’ power play has been much better of late, with goals coming on the man-advantage in five of the previous six games (22.7 percent).

Blue Jackets - Lightning Game Notes

Projected Lineups

Tampa Bay Lightning
Vladislav Namestnikov Steven Stamkos Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat Brayden Point Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn Yanni Gourde Cory Conacher
Chris Kunitz Cedric Paquette J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman Jake Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev Dan Girardi
Braydon Coburn Andrej Sustr
Andrei Vasilevskiy
Logan Domingue
Columbus Blue Jackets
Artemi Panarin Pierre-Luc Dubois Josh Anderson
Boone Jenner Nick Foligno Oliver Bjorkstrand
Sonny Milano Lukas Sedlak Matt Calvert
Tyler Motte Jordan Schroeder Markus Hannikainen
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Jack Johnson David Savard
Scott Harrington Markus Nutivaara
Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo