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Game #39 Preview/Gamethread: Blue Jackets take their talents (?) to South Beach

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Come chat with us during tonight’s game

Florida Panthers v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Saturday, April 3, 2021 - 7:00 EST
BB&T Center - Sunrise, Florida
TV: Bally Sports Ohio; Radio: 97.1 FM
Opponent’s Blog: Litter Box Cats

Columbus Blue Jackets (14-16-8, 36 points, 6th Central)

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Florida Panthers (24-9-4, 52 points, 2nd Central)

After splitting two games in Tampa in which they showed renewed effort, the Blue Jackets travel to the other coast of Florida to face the second place team in the division in a weekend back-to-back. Can the Blue Jackets take advantage of some key injuries and stop the Panthers’ four game winning streak?

Player to Watch

Alex Wennberg

Bought out of his contract after the Domi acquisition, former Columbus center Wennberg found a new home in Florida and has thrived this season in a top six role. He has eight goals on the season, which exceeds the seven goals he had in the previous two seasons with the Jackets. He’s not shooting much more than he did before, but is benefiting from skilled linemates, offensive zone deployment, and an absurdly high shooting percentage of 17% (more than double his career shooting percentage in Columbus). Wennberg’s eighth goal was an overtime winner on Thursday:

Jackets Notes

Elvis Merzlikins has started four straight games, so there’s a good chance we see Joonas Korpisalo back in net either today or tomorrow. Elvis has a record of just 1-3-0 in those games, but the losses weren’t on him thanks to a stellar .932 save percentage ... Keep an eye on the Robinson/Domi/Laine line. They were clicking on Thursday, with John Tortorella praising Laine for having his best game of the season ... The Blue Jackets lost all but one of the four games against Florida which were played in Columbus this season, but did manage to collect a loser point in two of those losses because of course they did.

The Other Bench

The Panthers have won four straight despite missing many of their key players. Forwards Aleksander Barkov have missed the last week but could be back this weekend. Anthony Duclair remains out with an upper body injury, while star defenseman Aaron Ekblad will miss twelve weeks due to a broken leg suffered on Sunday ... Yesterday the Panthers made a small trade, swapping seldom used Vinnie Hinostroza for minor leaguer Brad Morrison ... Another interesting transaction this week was the signing of Spencer Knight, a goaltending prospect and 2019 first round pick. Knight would be expected to be the future at that position, but our old friend Sergei Bobrovsky is still signed for five more years at a cap hit of $10 million a year. Backup Chris Driedger (who has outplayed Bobrovsky) is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and has appeared on some trade lists. Would GM Bill Zito flip him for assets now and trust Bob and Knight in the postseason, or stick with the goalie rotation which has gotten the team this far? I’d go with that latter approach, since a playoff run is worth more than the small return you’d get for Driedger at the trade deadline.

Season Series

01/26/2021 FLA 4 @ CBJ 3 (SO)
01/28/2021 FLA 2 @ CBJ 3 (SO)
03/09/2021 FLA 4 @ CBJ 2
03/11/2021 FLA 5 @ CBJ 4 (OT)
04/03/2021 CBJ @ FLA
04/04/2021 CBJ @ FLA
04/19/2021 CBJ @ FLA
04/20/2021 CBJ @ FLA

Stats

Florida Columbus
3.27 (5) GPG 2.47 (26)
2.68 (13) GAPG 3.11 (23)
24.0% (9) PP% 14.8% (26)
80.5% (12) PK% 75.9% (25)
52.2% (7) 5v5 Shot Attempt % 46.1% (31)
52.3% (8) 5v5 Unblocked shot attempt % 47.0% (28)
7.5 (22) 5v5 Shot % 7.5 (22)
.924 (11) 5v5 Save % .917 (20)
Carter Verhaeghe, 17 G Leader Oliver BJORKSTRAND and Cam Atkinson, 13
Jonathan Huberdeau, 28 A Leader Oliver BJORKSTRAND, 17
Jonathan Huberdeau, 42 P Leader Oliver BJORKSTRAND, 30
MacKenzie Weegar, 39 PIM Leader Max Domi, 37
12-4-3 Home / Road 7-10-2
6-4-0 Last 10 4-4-2

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine Max Domi Eric Robinson
Oliver BJORKSTRAND Jack Roslovic Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno Alexandre Texier Boone Jenner
Liam Foudy Riley Nash Zac Dalpe
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov David Savard
Dean Kukan Mikko Lehtonen
Joonas Korpisalo
Elvis Merzlikins
Florida Panthers
Mason Marchment Noel Acciari Carter Verhaeghe
Jonathan Huberdeau Alexander Wennberg Brett Conolly
Frank Vatrano Juho Lammikkko Owen Tippett
Ryan Lomberg Eetu Luostarinen
Gustav Forsling Mackenzie Weegar
Riley Stillman Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle Radko Gudas/Markus Nutivaara
Sergei Bobrovsky
Chris Driedger