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Game #42 Preview: Blue Jackets Face Tough Test at Lightning

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The Columbus Blue Jackets wrap up their three-game road trip with a final visit against the Lightning.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday, January 8, 2019 - 7:30 EST
Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL
TV: Fox Sports Ohio; Radio: 97.1 FM
Opponent’s Blog: Raw Charge

Columbus Blue Jackets (24-14-3, 51 points, 3rd Metro, 6th East)

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Tampa Bay Lightning (32-8-2, 66 points, 1st Atlantic, 1st East)

The last time the Columbus Blue Jackets saw the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was Oct. 13, and the Lighting were coming into just their third game of the season with a 1-1-0 record. In that game, Tampa would explode for eight goals in an 8-2 win, and since then, they have lost just seven games in regulation. Most recently, Saturday night to the Sharks in San Jose, 5-2. Entering play with the best record in the entire NHL at 32-8-2, Columbus has an opportunity to feel really good about themselves, or a little worse.

Despite a recent stretch 7-2-1 stretch for Columbus, John Tortorella has not been as pleased as you might expect, preaching for consistency throughout his lineup. The Blue Jackets saw a little more of that in their last game, a 4-3 overtime win Saturday against the Panthers. They also find themselves in a bunched-up Metropolitan Division, where four teams are separated by four points.

Player to Watch

Pierre-Luc Dubois (16 goals, 21 assists) is on pace to smash through last season’s impressive rookie totals. Dubois had an assist Saturday, and his first four-point game against the Senators on New Year’s Eve. In his last 10 games, he has three goals, seven assists. In four career games against the Lightning, Dubois has no goals, one assist.

Jackets Notes

John Tortorella enters tonight with 599 career victories, with 239 wins coming as coach of the Lightning from 2000-2008. He would be the 19th member of the 600-win club. ... As coach of the Blue Jackets, he has a record of 153-101-26, 332 points, for an overall winning percentage of .593, tops among all-time Blue Jackets coaches. ... Captain Nick Foligno, who has missed the previous three games to tend to his daughter in Boston while she underwent successful surgery, will not play Tuesday, per Tortorella. ... Scott Harrington, who missed Saturday’s game due to illness, is said to be feeling better, and practiced Monday. He should be available tonight. ... Seth Jones missed the first matchup with his knee injury suffered in the preseason. ... The Lightning are 3-0-1 in their last four meetings versus Columbus dating back to last season, and have outscored the Blue Jackets 20-6 over that span.

The Other Bench

What can you say about the Tampa Bay Lightning that probably hasn't already been said? This year’s iteration of the team, much like last season’s Conference Finals runner-up, is surging through the schedule with the best record in the entire league, and a bit of breathing room over the nearest competition. After a 13-0-1 month of December, Tampa Bay finds themselves with a 10 point edge over second-place Toronto in the East, as the Lightning have a firm grasp on the Presidents Trophy. But that’s of little consolation without the bigger prize one they have their sights toward.

When goaltender and Vezina candidate Andrei Vasilevskiy (16-4-2, .920 SV%, 2.66 GAA) missed time with a broken foot in mid-November, the Lightning didn’t miss a beat while inserting Louis Domingue in place. Domingue is 15-4-0, (.904, 2.99).

You know about Steven Stamkos (23 goals, 24 assists) but there’s also center and leading goal scorer for the Lightning, Brayden Point (24 goals, 30 assists), and the NHL overall points leader, Nikita Kucherov (20 goals, 49 assists). Those three make up a total of seven Lightning members with double-digit goal totals, including Alex Killorn (10 goals, 12 assists), Mathieu Joseph (10 goals, five assists), Tyler Johnson (18 goals, 13 assists) and Yanni Gourde (11 goals, 17 assists).

It’s hard to find a weakness for the Lightning, who are the best scoring team (4.12 GF/GP), and one of the better teams in keeping the puck out (2.95). The power play (30.1%) is No. 1 and the penalty kill is just inside the top 10 (82.5%).

Season Series

10/13/2018 CBJ 2 @ TBL 8
1/8/2019 CBJ @ TBL
2/18/2019 TBL @ CBJ

Stats

Tampa Bay Columbus
4.12 (1) GPG 3.29 (9)
2.95 (t-16) GAPG 3.05 (19)
30.1% (1) PP% 12.9% (30)
82.5% (9) PK% 80.3% (t-14)
52.62% (7) EV Corsi % 49.50% (16)
101.2 (5) EV PDO 100.8 (8)
Brayden Point, 24 G Leader Cam Atkinson, 24
Nikita Kucherov, 49 A Leader Artemi Panarin, 32
Nikita Kucherov, 69 P Leader Artemi Panarin, 45
Cedric Paquette, 50 PIM Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 40
15-4-2 Home / Road 13-6-1
8-1-1 Last 10 7-2-1

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets

Artemi Panarin Pierre-Luc Dubois Cam Atkinson
Oliver Bjorkstrand Alexander Wennberg Anthony Duclair
Eric Robinson Boone Jenner Josh Anderson
Markus Hannikainen Brandon Dubinsky Riley Nash
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Ryan Murray Markus Nutivaara
Scott Harrington David Savard
Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo

Tampa Bay Lightning

Ondrej Palat Steven Stamkos Alex Killorn
Tyler Johnson Brayden Point Nikita Kucherov
Adam Erne Anthony Cirelli Yanni Gourde
Mathieu Joseph Cedric Paquette Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh Erik Cernak
Anton Stralman Mikhail Sergachev
Andrei Vasilevskiy
Louis Domingue