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Minus Captain, Jackets Depend on Their Leaders More Than Ever

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The Blue Jackets will be minus the services of Nick Foligno after sustaining a lower-body injury Sunday versus Pittsburgh. Regardless, veterans must guide way against Devils with playoffs in striking distance.

Columbus Blue Jackets v New Jersey Devils Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After another lost opportunity Sunday in a key Metropolitan Division game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Columbus Blue Jackets still find themselves just one point under the divider line for the playoffs.

That quest gets tougher after captain Nick Foligno was knocked out with a lower-body injury Sunday and being put on IR. Zac Dalpe will replace him on the roster for the immediate remainder. Dean Kukan also left Sunday’s game and will miss a reported four weeks with an upper-body injury.

Tuesday’s opponent, the New Jersey Devils, who suffered a 6-1 loss at Nationwide last time these teams met 10 days ago, have won four-straight, including an overtime win Sunday, 3-2, over the Carolina Hurricanes. They are currently tied for third in the Metro and enter seven points over Columbus, who must act fast to stay within striking distance in the Wild Card race.

That’s not lost on John Tortorella:

Quotes

“We’re very fortunate. From where the [Metropolitan Division] was three months ago, I mean, everybody’s come down to earth, including us, and we’re still right in the middle of it. We’re very fortunate. So, you look at it and say, ‘We’re still here.’” — John Tortorella

“When things [are] going well, we just haven’t been consistent with all the things you need to do to win hockey games. One night it’s our power play. One night it’s our penalty killing. Maybe it’s our goaltending. It’s been like that for a number of months for our team, but you’re not going to get me to say that we haven’t played good hockey here the last six or seven games, other than that [game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday], where I thought we were flat. We just haven’t won. We’ve got to find a way to win.” — John Tortorella

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

Scorching

Taylor Hall paces the Devils in goals (24) assists (38) and points (62). Entering play Tuesday night, Hall has a league-best streak of 18-straight games with a point (12 goals, 14 assists, 26 points). As I found out, the NHL only recognizes it as an 11-game point streak since he missed three games with a thumb injury. The scoring streak dates back to Jan. 2.

Hall scored Sunday’s game-winner, 4:37 into overtime, just keeping that streak alive. The 26-year-old is tied for fourth among all players in scoring over that span.

Hall has one goal, two assists versus Columbus this season.

Rookie Nico Hischier is tied for fifth among all rookies with 39 points. He comes in on a five-game point streak (four goals, four assists). Hischier had two assists in the teams’ first meeting Dec. 5. The rookie was named NHL First Star of the Week.

It seems likely John Tortorella would opt to keep going with Sergei Bobrovsky, as he knows the importance of these games.

Cory Schneider (17-11-6, 2.79 goals-against average, .913 SV%) is on IR with groin and hip ailments and has not played since Jan. 23. Keith Kinkaid (3.17 GAA, .897 SV%) is 13-7-2 in 21 starts and has won three straight. Eddie Lack, acquired from the Calgary Flames Dec. 30, is 2-1-2 in four starts. In two starts, three appearances for New Jersey, he is 1-1.

While Foligno and Kukan are out, the Jackets figure to get a much-needed boost with the return of Ryan Murray, out since Nov. 27 with a back injury. He played for Cleveland on Sunday in a conditioning stint.

Among those that the Jackets will need in the absence of their captain is the continued scoring by Cam Atkinson. Atkinson had an assist against the Penguins and has four points in his last five games. Seth Jones has not had a point since his two-assist game the last time these clubs met. He was a -3 Sunday.

Columbus is 11-3-0 against the Devils in their last 14.

Face Off
Game Notes

Projected Lineups

New Jersey Devils
Taylor Hall Nico Hischier Kyle Palmieri
Blake Coleman Travis Zajac Stefan Noesen
Jesper Bratt Pavel Zacha Drew Stafford
Blake Pietila Brian Boyle Nick Lappin
Andy Greene Sami Vatanen
John Moore Damon Severson
Mirco Mueller Ben Lovejoy
Keith Kinkaid
Eddie Lack
Columbus Blue Jackets
Artemi Panarin Pierre-Luc Dubois Cam Atkinson
Boone Jenner Alexander Wennberg Oliver Bjorkstrand
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Josh Anderson
Markus Hannikainen Lukas Sedlak Zac Dalpe
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Jack Johnson Ryan Murray
Scott Harrington David Savard
Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo