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Game #77 Preview: Vie ou Mort

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A true must win game as the Blue Jackets’ playoff life hangs in the balance

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday, March 28, 2019 - 7:00 EST
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NHL Network; Radio: 97.1 FM
Opponent’s Blog: Eyes on the Prize

Columbus Blue Jackets (42-30-4, 88 points, 5th Metro, 9th East)

vs.

Montreal Canadiens (41-28-8, 90 points, 4th Atlantic, 8th East)

This is a big one. Columbus is two points behind Montreal for the final playoff position in the East (with a game in hand). A regulation win puts Columbus in that spot and in control of their own destiny. A loss would mean a four point hole with just five games left to play. For a month now we’ve talked about must win games. This one may finally truly be one.

Our colleagues at Eyes on the Prize phrased it quite well:

In an 82 game season, the words “big game” and “must-win” are used to make some games feel more important. When you get to the second half of the season, the vernacular adds “four-point game”, a game where the swing is, you guessed it, four points.

There is nothing exaggerating how big Thursday’s game against Columbus really is. If Montreal wins in regulation, they will be four points up and fully in control of their own destiny. If Columbus wins in regulation, the two teams will be tied and Columbus holds a game in hand.

Of course, there is still a scenario where both of these teams make the playoffs as the Carolina Hurricanes remain in striking distance, but if either team misses the playoffs, you can’t say that they didn’t play a playoff game. Thursday night will be a playoff game.

Player to Watch

Carey Price

Carey Price is out ... OUT OF THIS WORLD. In the first year of his massive 8 year, $84 million deal, Price has returned to form with a 2.49 GAA and .918 SV%. In the last 10 games, he is 6-3-1 with a 2.20 GAA and .927 SV%. That includes an 8 goal loss to Anaheim!

Price is 2-0 against the Jackets this year, allowing just 3 goals on 68 shots.

Jackets Notes

Is the first line back? Pierre-Luc Dubois broke his goalless drought on Sunday in Vancouver, while Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson both scored against the Islanders on Tuesday ... Atkinson’s empty netter was his 39th of the season, which brings him within two of Rick Nash’s franchise record ... Speaking of Nash, he’s been hanging around the front office this season, which hints that a management job may be part of his retirement in the near future ... Another possible job: could he be a replacement for Bill Davidge, who is retiring as Fox Sports Ohio studio analyst?

The Other Bench

While the Jackets were beating the Islanders, the Canadiens kept pace by blowing out the Panthers, 6-1 ... 15 goal fourth liner Paul Byron was injured in a fight in that game, and will not make the trip to Columbus ... Perhaps you’re like me and thought that Montreal couldn’t replace Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty, who were both traded in the offseason. Well, we were wrong. The two leading point scorers for the team this season were part of those deals: Max Domi with 68 points and Tomas Tatar with 57.

Season Series

01/18/2019 MTL 4 @ CBJ 1
02/19/2019 CBJ 2 @ MTL 3
03/28/2019 MTL @ CBJ

Stats

Montreal Columbus
3.00 (14) GPG 3.04 (13)
2.86 (11) GAPG 2.86 (11)
12.4% (31) PP% 15.5% (28)
80.6% (15) PK% 84.5% (3)
54.08% (4) EV Corsi % 50.04% (13)
100.5 (9) EV PDO 100.1 (13)
Brendan Gallagher, 33 G Leader Cam Atkinson, 39
Max Domi, 41 A Leader Artemi Panarin, 52
Max Domi, 68 P Leader Artemi Panarin, 78
Max Domi, 80 PIM Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 62
18-16-4 Home / Road 21-16-2
5-4-1 Last 10 5-4-1

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
Artemi Panarin Pierre-Luc Dubois Cam Atkinson
Ryan Dzingel Matt Duchene Josh Anderson
Alexander Wennberg Boone Jenner Oliver BJORKSTRAND
Nick Foligno Brandon Dubinsky Riley Nash
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Markus Nutivaara David Savard
Dean Kukan Adam McQuaid
Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo
Montreal Canadiens
Tomas Tatar Phillip Danault Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen Max Domi Andrew Shaw
Jonathan Drouin Jesperi Kotkaniemi Joel Armia
Charles Hudon Nate Thompson Jordan Weal
Victor Mete Shea Weber
Brett Kulak Jeff Petry
Jordie Benn Christian Folin
Carey Price
Antti Niemi