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Game #54 Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets open four game homestand against Florida Panthers

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Here’s what you need to know.

Florida Panthers v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Florida Panthers at Columbus Blue Jackets
Tuesday, February 4, 2020 - 7:00 EST
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
TV: Fox Sports Ohio - Radio: WBNS FM
Opponent’s Blog: Litter Box Cats

Florida Panthers, 29-17-5, 63 points, 3rd Atlantic, 8th East
@
Columbus Blue Jackets, 28-16-9, 65 points, 3rd Metro, 5th East

Grudge match between the Panthers and Blue Jackets this season - both previous matchups have ended 4-1 for the home team; it’s time to settle this season series.

Sergei Bobrovsky, surviving the Maple Leafs to win 5-3 last night, is likely to start tonight on the pine in favor of Chris Driedger. We want Bob? Regardless, the Jackets dumped on this team just one month ago, and with the Panthers possibly missing captain Aleksander Barkov, the time is now to grab two points to open a four game homestand at Nationwide Arena against an undermanned and tired opponent.

After a slow start to resume following their ten+ day layoff, the Jackets (bad on offense Saturday, bad at goaltending and defense on Sunday) have a chance to put things together and get the ship straightened out. Unfortunately, they’ll have to do so without one of their better defensive players for the next few weeks.

Alexander Wennberg, slashed in the second period of Sunday’s win against the Montreal Canadiens, missed the third period and did not return to the game. Today, he was sent to IR as the team recalled Ryan MacInnis in his place.

Short handed in the lineup yet again, tonight is a critical chance to get the homestand off to a solid start against a similarly injured opponent. Take care of business, ugly and allowing too many shots if necessary. Go Jackets.

Player to Watch

Frank Vatrano

Your intrepid author’s most recent fantasy hockey pickup, Vatrano has had a solid season for the Panthers. Through 50 games played, Vatrano has 14-13-27 this season, nearly bettering his career high in assists already and only 12 points off of his career high, set just last season. Vatrano’s 27 points would put him 5th on the Jackets in scoring, just ahead of Cam Atkinson. Vatrano, over the Panthers’ last five games, leads the team with seven points. Vatrano, a left wing, is part of a potent Panthers offense the Jackets will be tasked with shutting down in Nationwide Arena.

Jackets Notes

Pierre-Luc Dubois has tied Oliver Bjorkstrand for the team lead in goals with 17 on the season ... Dubois has eight points in his last four games after Sunday’s three point outing against the Montreal Canadiens ... The Blue Jackets shot share at even strength continues to suffer; they were outshot 30-7 at five on five in the second period alone on Sunday against the Canadiens ... PLD has now tied Joonas Korpisalo in kepi wins this season with three ... Merzlikins is now 10-2-0 in his last 12 appearances, boasting a 1.76 GAA and an .947 SV% in that span

The Other Bench

Chris Dreidger, the likely starting netminder for the Panthers tonight, is 5-2-0 on the season with a 2.35 GAA and a .935 SV% with one shutout ... After leaving early on Saturday against the Canadiens, Aleksander Barkov missed last night’s win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and is considered day to day ... Barkov has 16-38-54 on the season for the Panthers ... The Panthers, after winning six in a row before the All Star Break and bye week, are 1-1 to resume the season after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs behind four third-period goals last night, including Mark Pysyk’s first career hat trick ... Barkov, if he plays, is one point short of 400 for his NHL career

Season Series

12/07/2019 CBJ 1 @ FLA 4
12/31/2019 FLA 1 @ CBJ 4
02/04/2020 FLA @ CBJ

Stats

Florida Columbus
3.60 (2) GPG 2.70 (24)
3.28 (25) GAPG 2.51 (3)
23.6% (6) PP% 17.2% (24)
77.7% (24) PK% 82.1% (10)
49.83% (16) 5v5 Corsi % 48.22% (22)
50.44% (11) 5v5 Fenwick % 50.06% (15)
9.36% (5) 5v5 Shot % 7.43% (27)
.908 (18) 5v5 Save % .933 (1)
Evgenii Dadanov, 23 G Leader Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois, 17
Jonathan Huberdeau, 47 A Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 25
Jonathan Huberdeau, 65 P Leader Pierre-Luc Dubois, 42
Josh Brown, 30 PIM Leader Nick Foligno, 52
Home / Road 16-9-2
7-3-0 Last 10 8-1-1

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets

Nick Foligno Pierre-Luc Dubois Oliver Bjorkstrand
Gustav Nyquist Boone Jenner Cam Atkinson
Nathan Gerbe Riley Nash Emil Bemstrom
Jakob Lilja Ryan MacInnis Eric Robinson
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov David Savard
Scott Harrington Markus Nutivaara
Elvis Merzlikins
Matiss Kivlenieks

Florida Panthers

Jonathan Huberdeau Noel Acciari Evgenii Dadanov
Brett Connolly Vincent Trocheck Mike Hoffman
Frank Vatrano Dominic Toninato Denis Malgin
Colton Sceviour Brian Boyle Mark Pysyk
Michael Matheson Aaron Ekblad
Riley Stillman Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle Josh Brown
Chris Driedger
Sergei Bobrovsky