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Game #58 Preview: Jackets look to regain momentum against Buffalo Sabres

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We need this one.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday, February 13, 2020 - 7:00 EST
KeyBank Center - Buffalo, NY
TV: Fox Sports Ohio; Radio: 97.1 FM
Opponent’s blog: Die By The Blade

Columbus Blue Jackets (30-17-10, 70 points, 4th Metro, 7th East)

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Buffalo Sabres (25-24-8, 58 points, 6th Atlantic, 13th East)

Well, it’s been a tough week in Columbus - a fractured ankle and consequent surgery left us with the devastating loss of defenseman and team backbone Seth Jones. In a season full of injuries, this one arguably hurts the worst. And, with a recovery time of 8-10 weeks, we might not see him hit the ice again this season unless we make a playoff run. No pressure!

Jones’ absence was particularly missed in OT against Tampa Bay on Monday, when Zach Werenski took an overtly casual stroll with the puck back behind Merzlikins, resulting in Brayden Point relieving him of the puck and handing it off to Nikita Kucherov, who handily scored the goal that ended the game.

Werenski owned it, which was great - normally his cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor on the ice is encouraging instead of worrisome, but it appeared he’s floundering a bit without Seth by his side, ready to have his back if something goes awry as it did on Monday.

Anyways, the Jackets are onto the next one - 16 teams span the difference between Columbus (8) and Buffalo (25) in the league standings, but that doesn't mean the Jackets can take one minute of this game lightly. At best, it will be an opportunity for the Jackets to find their footing and get used to playing without Jones. At worst, it will be a trap game that the Jackets avoided against the Red Wings last week P.S.I. (pre-Seth injury).

Player to Watch

Markus Nutivaara

The silver lining among all of these injuries (I’m trying really hard here, guys) is that this is Nuti’s opportunity to step up and shine. He and Werenski looked solid together on Monday night, despite Nuti only having partnered with Z for a total of 134 minutes across 302 games so far. If Nutivaara can prove he can match Z’s pace, and if their chemistry continues to climb, Nutivaara can certainly claim his chance to become an effective producer on defense and assert a more permanent spot in the lineup.

As for players not to watch, Cam Atkinson is out again due to a sprained ankle (insert expletive here).

Jackets Notes

Josh Anderson and Joonas Korpisalo have been skating this week, which is good news. In other good news, David Savard and his wife Valerie welcomed their third child, Zachary Felix Savard, into this world this week. Congratulations to them!

Liam Foudy is also recalled for today’s game, as is Gabriel Carlsson. Foudy looked solid on Monday, and was even in the OT lineup rotation, but didn’t get a chance to hit the ice due to the quick goal scored on behalf of Tampa Bay. Here’s hoping he gets more opportunities tonight in Buffalo.

The Other Bench

The Sabres are having a lackluster season, nearly at .500 with wins and losses. After a narrow 3-2 win over the unfortunate Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday, Buffalo is facing a battered but far from broken Blue Jackets battalion, which shouldn’t be an easy two points.

The Sabres have some injuries of their own, with C Marcus Johansson, RW Kyle Okposo, RW Victor Olafsson, goalie Carter Hutton, D Rasmus Dahlin, LW Johan Larsson, RW Curtis Lazar, D Brandon Montour and D Zach Bogosian placed on IR in February alone.

Jack Eichel is their most formidable player on offense, with a total of 70 points so far this season (31 goals, 39 assists). The Jackets will have to make sure he is managed and not lapse on defense if they’re going to find success tonight.

Season Series

10/7/2020 BUF 3 @ CBJ 4
2/1/2020 CBJ 1 @ BUF 2
2/13/2020 CBJ @ BUF

Stats

Buffalo Columbus
2.82 (21) GPG 2.60 (27)
3.09 (19) GAPG 2.40 (2)
18.8% (21) PP% 16.6% (26)
74.8% (27) PK% 83.2% (6)
49.3% (18) 5v5 Shot Attempt % 48.7% (21)
48.9% (20) 5v5 Unblocked shot attempt % 50.6% (13)
8.2 (17) 5v5 Shot % 6.9 (28)
.922 (11) 5v5 Save % .936 (1)
Jack Eichel, 31 G Leader Oliver BJORKSTRAND, 18
Jack Eichel, 39 A Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 26
Jack Eichel, 70 P Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 43
Rasmus Ristolainen, 40 PIM Leader Nick Foligno, 54
16-10-4 Home / Road 12-7-7
4-5-1 Last 10 7-1-2

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
Nick Foligno Pierre-Luc Dubois Oliver Bjorkstrand
Liam Foudy Boone Jenner Gustav Nyquist
Nathan Gerbe Riley Nash Eric Robinson
Sonny Milano Kevin Stenlund Emil Bemstrom
Zach Werenski Markus Nutivaara
Vladislav Gavrikov David Savard
Scott Harrington Andrew Peeke
Elvis Merzlikins
Matiss Kivlenieks
Buffalo Sabres
Jimmy Vesey Jack Eichel Sam Reinhart
Marcus Johansson Curtis Lazar Conor Sheary
Jeff Skinner Evan Rodrigues Michael Frolik
Zemgus Girgensons Johan Larsson Scott Wilson
Brandon Montour Rasmus Ristolainen
Jake McCabe Henri Jokiharju
Rasmus Dahlin Colin Miller
Carter Hutton
Jonas Johansson