Tonight marks the final regular season home game in Nationwide Arena for the 2016-17 season. There’s not much to play for tonight - sure, there’s 2 points on the line, but it would take a collapse by the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Columbus Blue Jackets to have a chance at regaining home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. The Blue Jackets also cannot mathematically fall so far as the New York Rangers even if they lose out for the rest of the regular season.
Tonight is about two things, really. It’s about, first of all, celebrating what this season has been. This has been the best year in Blue Jackets franchise history. The team has set records for points, wins, goaltender wins, goals scored, franchise record winning streak, and on and on. This team will not be a wild card team, will not sneak into the playoffs at the eleventh hour - there’s a lot to be proud of. Tonight, the team will have a chance to revel in the memories of this season as they play one last regular season game in front of their home fans in Nationwide Arena.
Second, and more importantly, tonight is about getting back on track and building momentum for the playoffs. The Blue Jackets are currently on their first four game losing streak of the season at perhaps the worst possible time. The team’s offense is hurting, and the power play is listed on milk cartons across the country. They have 3 games left to build momentum and get some of their issues straightened out before the second season begins. A monster matchup with the Penguins looms.
All of that brings us back to tonight. The Blue Jackets play host to the Winnipeg Jets who visit Nationwide Arena in the midst of an 8-2-0 run despite being eliminated from playoff contention. When looking at the Jets’ lineup, the first name that pops out is Patrik Laine, last year’s second overall pick. Laine is second among rookies in goals scored and will be an offensive force to contend with all night.
The Jets will be starting rookie netminder Eric Comrie between the pipes as he will be making his NHL debut. Also making his NHL debut is the first NHL player born in Columbus Ohio, native son Jack Roslovic. Roslovic, a former first round pick (25th overall) by the Jets, will be making his NHL debut in his hometown, a pretty cool footnote for what will hopefully be a long NHL career. It will be imperative that the Blue Jackets take advantage of the inexperience and capitalize on the youth of the Jets.
Last night, the Blue Jackets and Penguins were officially locked in as first round opponents. The Washington Capitals won the President’s Trophy for the second straight year and will face the second wild card team. The New York Rangers will cross over as the first wild card team and play the Montreal Canadiens.
In Blue Jackets team news, the team sent Sonny Milano back to the Cleveland Monsters after a one game look against the Pittsburgh Penguins. That is a curious move, given that Milano is an offensive talent and the team has been struggling to score goals. The Blue Jackets also signed Ryan Collins to an entry level deal, as well as recalled Oscar Dansk to the Cleveland Monsters.
Given that the team had a day off yesterday (after playing 4 games in 6 days), the team held a morning skate today. After morning skate, Torts announced the lineup for the game. His first and most repeated comment was an emphasis on “playing the game the right way.” Torts discussed that he wanted to keep Jack Johnson and David Savard together, playing Markus Nutivaara with Seth Jones, and Kyle Quincey with Scott Harrington. Matt Calvert will return to the lineup tonight after missing Tuesday’s game. Torts also acknowledged the possibility of Sonny Milano returning to play with the team this weekend.
Though it was not mentioned specifically, I expect Sergei Bobrovsky to get the start in the home finale. Joonas Korpisalo will get the start in the home finale tonight. After playing Bobrovsky in the last 3 games against quality competition, this does make some sense. This gives Korpisalo two starts before the end of the season, letting Sergei Bobrovsky rest before the playoffs.
Go Jackets. Get this done tonight for the fans and start building some momentum for next week.
Columbus Blue Jackets
|Nick Foligno||Brandon Dubinsky||Cam Atkinson|
|Brandon Saad||Alexander Wennberg||Sam Gagner|
|Scott Hartnell||Boone Jenner||Oliver Bjorkstrand|
|Matt Calvert||William Karlsson||Josh Anderson|
|Markus Nutivaara||Seth Jones|
|Jack Johnson||David Savard|
|Kyle Quincey||Scott Harrington|
|Nikolaj Ehlers||Mark Scheifele
|Mathieu Perreault||Bryan Little||Patrik Laine|
|Andrew Copp||Adam Lowry||Joel Armia|
|Brandon Tanev||Nicolas Petan||Jack Roslovic|
|Josh Morrissey||Jacob Trouba|
|Julian Melchiori||Dustin Byfuglien|
|Mark Stuart||Nelson Nogier|