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Game #50 Preview and GameThread: Blue Jackets look to bounce back in final tilt with Lightning

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NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning
Sunday, April 25, 2021 - 7:00 EST
Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
TV: NBCSN - Radio: WBNS FM
Opponent’s Blog: Raw Charge

Columbus Blue Jackets, 15-25-9, 39 points, 8th Central, 27th NHL
@
Tampa Bay Lightning, 31-14-2, 64 points, 3rd Central, 5th NHL

Columbus limps into this game as a team desperate for the end of the season. The Jackets are 0-7-1 in their last eight, 2-13-2 since March 20 and were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention in their last outing, achieving that dubious status before even the Detroit Red Wings.

Tonight, the Jackets finish off their season series against the Lightning. For whatever reason, this is the club the Jackets have been most consistent against this year, winning three of seven games while losing just twice by multiple goals. This team just has the Bolts’ number and, if they can find any goals whatsoever, have a chance to leave Tampa Bay with a win tonight.

Player to Watch

Cam Atkinson

Cam has struggled of late, going a -5 in his last four games, with three points (no goals) in that same time frame. Atkinson has had a down year offensively, scoring just 14 goals this season with just nine of those coming at even strength and two being game winners. Cam is a -14 on the season despite averaging the second most time on ice of his career. It would be nice to see Cam start putting the puck in the net more consistently down the stretch so that he has something to build on going into next season.

Jackets Notes

Cam Atkinson remains one point away from 400 for his career ... Aaron Portzline noted in his mailbag yesterday that marketing has become an issue:

It’s always staggering to me how little the club markets the players, especially guys who would seem to have marketability. Jones. Werenski. Cam Atkinson. Elvis Merzlikins. I’m not talking pictures on the side of the building or billboards, I’m talking inventive, edgy marketing campaigns built around the players. I know it’s a source of frustration among the players.

Right now, the Blue Jackets are fifth in NHL lottery odds with an 8.5% shot at #1 overall, 17.2% at a top two pick ... There have been rumors out of Russia the last few days that Yegor Chinakhov is considering signing an entry level contract once the KHL season ends, but his agent has denied those reports

The Other Bench

The Lightning players received the Stanley Cup rings on Friday afternoon as the city of Tampa hosted its day of champions with the Buccaneers ... Jan Rutta has resume skating and is hopeful to rejoin the Lightning lineup before the end of the regular season ... Raw Charge writer Matthew Esteves took a deep dive into the Lightning’s play to analyze what’s going wrong right now:

Plainly put, Tampa Bay is still one of the elite teams in the NHL. Laden with talent up and down the lineup, especially when they’re healthy. However, it’s apparent they’re not as strong as last season and haven’t found a consistent formula for success that doesn’t involve Vasilevskiy becoming a wall combined with opportunistic goal scoring. To me, the most jarring aspect of their play has been their inability to consistently generate pressure in the slot this season. I’m not inclined to believe it is solely due to Kucherov’s absence, it’s hard to fathom one player altering their shot locations that drastically. Does it hurt them? Absolutely, but this shift the Lightning has taken seems deliberate, and it’s unclear why. No amount of conjecture is going to provide an answer.

Season Series

01/21/21 TBL 3 @ CBJ 2 (OT)
01/23/21 TBL 2 @ CBJ 5
03/30/21 CBJ 3 @ TBL 1
04/01/21 CBJ 2 @ TBL 3
04/06/21 TBL 2 @ CBJ 4
04/08/21 TBL 6 @ CBJ 4
04/22/21 CBJ 1 @ TBL 4
04/25/21 CBJ @ TBL

Stats

Tampa Bay Columbus
3.30 (5) GPG 2.37 (29)
2.57 (7) GAPG 3.33 (26)
24.7% (5) PP% 15.1% (28)
82.8% (8) PK% 79.8% (13)
52.1% (9) 5v5 Shot Attempt % 46.3% (30)
51.9% (8) 5v5 Unblocked shot attempt % 46.9% (27)
51.6 (8) 5v5 Shot % 47.5 (24)
.925 (7) 5v5 Save % .908 (28)
Brayden Point, 20 G Leader Oliver Bjorkstrand, 15
Victor Hedman, 34 A Leader Oliver Bjorkstrand, 21
Victor Hedman, 42 P Leader Oliver Bjorkstrand, 36
Pat Maroon, 48 PIM Leader Max Domi, 67
18-6-0 Home / Road 7-17-2
5-5-0 Last 10 1-8-1

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets

Oliver Bjorkstrand Jack Roslovic Cam Atkinson
Patrik Laine Alexandre Texier Stefan Matteau
Eric Robinson Kevin Stenlund Zac Dalpe
Ryan MacInnnis Josh Dunne Max Domi
Michael Del Zotto Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov Mikko Lehetonen
Dean Kukan Gavin Bayreuther
Joonas Korpisalo
Elvis Merzlikins

Tampa Bay Lightning

Ondrej Palat Brayden Point Alex Barre-Boulet
Alex Killorn Anthony Cirelli Tyler Johnson
Barclay Goodrow Yanni Gourde Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon Ross Colton Mathieu Joseph
Victor Hedman Erik Cernak
Ryan McDonagh David Savard
Mikhail Sergachev Luke Schenn
Andrei Vasilevskiy
Curtis McElhinney