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Blue Jackets Head North to Contend With Red-Hot Maple Leafs

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Game Preview: Blue Jackets next toughest test remains north of the border.

NHL: JAN 08 Blue Jackets at Maple Leafs Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the first time in quite a while, since early January to be exact, the Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves on a mini two-game winning streak and looking to keep the momentum going.

They enter play Wednesday with 10 goals, 101 shots on goal over their last two games, a franchise-record, including setting a season-high 51 shots on goal against the Islanders Tuesday night.

The Toronto Maple Leafs come into action on a four-game win streak and have won eight of their last 10 games. Monday night they held on for a 4-3 win over the NHL league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. They are 5-1 in the month of February, their only blemish coming against the Boston Bruins.

Auston Matthews is the teams’ goals (26) and points (47) leader. Three players, William Nylander, Mitchell Marner, and Jake Gardiner each lead the way with 31 assists.

Not coincidentally, each has been on fire of late.

Burning Leaves

Matthews has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his last five games, and is coming off a three-assist night against Tampa. He also has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists), four multi-point games, over his last 11 games. Marner has eight points (four goals, four assists) over the last five, and six over the last two games. He had an assist versus Tampa, and two goals, three assists, last Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.

Nylander had three points against the Lightning, (two goals, one assist) and has seven points (four goals, three assists) over the last five games. He has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in the last 10 games. Gardiner had one goal, one assist Monday night, which ended a two-game pointless drought. He had three assists Feb. 5 against the Anaheim Ducks and has 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in his last dozen games. He had multi-points in four of those games, and three points on three separate occasions.

Columbus Goes For The Sweep

Columbus has won both meetings against Toronto this season, including Jan. 8 in Air Canada Centre, when Nick Foligno started the Blue Jackets’ scoring down 2-0 with under five minutes remaining in regulation. Pierre-Luc Dubois tied it moments later, and Artemi Panarin scored the overtime game-winner to cap off the Jackets 3-2 win. The Leafs are 8-3-2 since that game.

Columbus also won the first meeting Dec. 20 at Nationwide Arena 4-2.

This matchup ends the Maple Leafs five-game homestand. For Columbus, this is their third back-to-back of the month, and they have three remaining in March.

Rising Dough

Since Jan. 7, Panarin has also been lighting the scoresheet up.

Over that span — 14 games — he has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) and has not gone more than a game at a time without registering a point. He comes into play on a three-game point streak (two goals, two assists). In the eight games since Cam Atkinson‘s return, he comes in with six points (three goals, three assists). Seth Jones has three points in his last three games (three assists), and 13 points (one goal, 12 assists) since Jan. 1.

Jones’ 12 assists since Jan. 1 are fifth among defenseman, and three behind Gardiner. His 13 points are also inside the top 10 at the position in that span.

Joonas Korpisalo figures to get the nod against the Leafs but as always, it’s wait-and-see from John Tortorella. Korpisalo made 41 saves in the 4-2 win over Toronto back on Dec. 20. He has only made three starts for Columbus since then. Sergei Bobrovsky has made four-consecutive starts and did make both starts in the back-to-back over the weekend.

For Toronto, Frederik Andersen (28-15-4, 2.65 goals-against average, .921 save percentage) has been rolling right along through much of the season and will make the start. He has come away with three-straight wins in recent outings but has given up three goals in each of the two starts, and in four of five February starts.

Andersen was pulled in a start against the Ducks, Feb. 5, a game the Leafs eventually won.

Curtis McElhinney (6-4-0, 2.27 GAA, .932 SV%) has also won his past three games, but he has not started since Feb. 1 and has not played since that win in relief over the Ducks.

They Said It

“I just want us to keep building. They should feel good about their last couple games. Actually, they should feel good about the last five or six games, but you need the result for players to feel good.” — John Tortorella

“It’s something that we avoided last year, and I’ve said it … it hurt us a little bit, because of just how easy it was to kind of coast when we shouldn’t have,” Foligno said. “We should’ve been gearing up, but there’s games where you’re almost trying not to get hurt, because you know that playoffs … you’re already in. So, your mindset’s not really where it needs to be.”

“Right now, we’ve got no room for error, in a sense, which is a great way to be,” Foligno said. “I think it’s going to bode well for us down the stretch, and that’s how we have to approach it.” — Nick Foligno

*quotes per Blue Jackets Insider, Brian Hedger, Blue Jackets.com

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Game Notes

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
Artemi Panarin Pierre-Luc Dubois Cam Atkinson
Oliver Bjorkstrand Alexander Wennberg Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner Brandon Dubinsky Josh Anderson
Matt Calvert Lukas Sedlak Jussi Jokinen
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Jack Johnson Markus Nutivaara
Dean Kukan David Savard
Joonas Korpisalo
Sergei Bobrovsky
Toronto Maple Leafs
Zach Hyman Auston Matthews William Nylander
Patrick Marleau Nazem Kadri Mitch Marner
James van Riemsdyk Tyler Bozak Connor Brown
Leo Komarov Dominic Moore Kasperi Kapanen
Morgan Rielly Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott Roman Polak
Frederik Andersen
Curtis McElhinney