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Game Preview: Marching On

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The Blue Jackets hit the home ice in the first half of a back to back. Can they make it 5 wins in a row?

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs at Columbus Blue Jackets
Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 7:00 EST
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
TV: Fox Sports Ohio - Radio: WBNS FM
Game Faceoff

The Columbus Blue Jackets hit 100 points in the standings recently. You may have heard about it. This all uncharted territory for the franchise from here on out - the team had never clinched a playoff spot before Game #80 until this season. Fans don’t really know what to expect.

Thankfully, the team is led by a coaching staff that has been there before. Torts has a plan, and he’s sticking to it. He wants to have the guys playing their best and playing motivated hockey when the playoffs start. He’s not going to stretch Sergei Bobrovsky chasing the President’s Trophy.

The Blue Jackets are in good hands. Now it’s up to them to do the work and bring this home over the next 11 games.

Last night, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins both won to drop the Blue Jackets to third in the Metropolitan division. The Blue Jackets face the Maple Leafs tonight before heading to Washington to face those Capitals tomorrow. Points are at a premium right now, and it will be critical for the Blue Jackets to take care of business on home ice tonight to bank points they should have.

I’ll be honest - I’m a bit worried about a trap game tonight. I know Torts has preached “one game at a time” all season long, but this seems like a classic letdown game. The Blue Jackets just clinched a playoff spot and hit 100 points for the first time ever, they have a monster matchup on Thursday night, and might be overlooking the Maple Leafs because of the clash of those two factors.

It will be critical for the Blue Jackets to come out with an urgency tonight and not fall prey to that “trap game” mentality. Toronto is going to come out fast - they’re a young, talented team that is playing fearless hockey right now. The Leafs are traveling to Columbus on the heels of scoring three goals in the third period on Monday night to beat the Boston Bruins. Toronto needs all of the points they can get as they seek to lock down a playoff spot and will be playing with high intensity early. Columbus has to match that to have a chance to win.

In practice yesterday, the Blue Jackets were working with a new look line - Lukas Sedlak, recently re-signed along with Scott Harrington and Markus Hannikainen, had taken the place of Scott Hartnell. Torts mentioned that he wants to keep Sedlak in the lineup after a strong performance on Sunday, and as such left Hartnell as the odd man out. On defense, Scott Harrington was skating with Markus Nutivaara, though it remained unclear if Nutivaara would draw back in after practice.

I expect Joonas Korpisalo to get the start in net tonight. It would make sense for Korpi to get the start against the Maple Leafs at home before playing Sergei Bobrovsky on the road against the Capitals on Thursday and at home again on Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

So, here we are. 11 games to go. The Blue Jackets sit 3rd in the league, 2 points out of first place, with an opportunity to take that lead in the next 48 hours. The boys in the locker room - they have everything to play for. We’ve seen them seize the moment before this season - no moment has been too big for them this season. With everything to play for, let’s see if they can step up on home ice tonight.

Let’s go Jackets.

Probable Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets

Brandon Saad Alexander Wennberg Cam Atkinson
Boone Jenner Brandon Dubinsky Josh Anderson
Nick Foligno Sam Gagner Oliver Bjorkstrand
Lukas Sedlak William Karlsson Matt Calvert
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Jack Johnson David Savard
Scott Harrington Markus Nutivaara
Joonas Korpisalo
Sergei Bobrovsky

Toronto Maple Leafs

Zach Hyman Auston Matthews William Nylander
Leo Komarov Nazem Kadri Connor Brown
James van Riemsdyk Tyler Bozak Mitch Marner
Matt Martin Brian Boyle Nikita Soshnikov
Morgan Reilly Connor Carrick
Jake Gardiner Nikita Zaitsev
Matt Hunwick Roman Polak
Frederik Anderson
Curtis McElhinney