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Game #71 Preview: Blue Jackets return to Nationwide to take on Islanders

Columbus Blue Jackets vs New York Islanders
Friday, March 24, 2023 – 7:00 PM EST
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
TV: Bally’s Sports Ohio – Radio: WBNS FM
Opponent’s blog: Lighthouse Hockey

Columbus Blue Jackets, 22-41-7, 49 points, 8th Metro, 16th East
New York Islanders, 37-27-8, 82 points, 4th Metro, 7th East

The Blue Jackets return home to the friendly confines of Nationwide Arena tonight in front of what should be another big crowd. Coming off one of their more impressive performances (offensively at least) of the season, the Jackets will have to fend off another team fighting for the playoff lives with the Islanders.

A much tighter defensive performance will be required to hang in there with New York considering the style of game New York is known for playing. So don’t expect another barn burner tonight against a tight checking Isles team.

Player to Watch

Hunter McKown

Without too much to watch for in these remaining games, it is exciting to see some new blood enter the lineup. It is a nice change of pace to have a sought after college free agent choose the Blue Jackets, especially since he could truly be a diamond in the rough. The Blue Jackets have had some success in years past with these types of players and still have a few in their lineup with Eric Robinson and Nick Blankenberg. If things pan out, it does seem like McKown could have a higher ceiling than those players. Aaron Portzline wrote a great piece on the tumultuous journey to the NHL for McKown, which will only make me root harder for the kid to find success in Columbus.

I see this goal, and can’t help but think the Jackets potentially landed a gem. This play has everything. A strong defensive play, some silky mitts, and finishing skills.

Jackets Notes

The Jackets welcomed back Brad Larsen and Elvis Merzlikins after each stepped away from the team for a death in the family. Hopefully hockey can be a source of healing for them both and take their minds away from grief at least for a few hours.

With Cole Sillinger being sent to Cleveland to play some meaningful hockey, and Sean Kuraly returning from injury the Blue Jackets are rolling Laine, Jenner, McKown and Kuraly down the middle. Looks like Emil Bemstrom is the odd man out, even though he’s played well lately putting up 3 points in his last 3 games and will be a healthy scratch. Whatever.

The Other Bench

New York comes into Columbus on a three-game winning streak and in the first wildcard spot in the East.  A win tonight would make their foothold a bit more comfortable, so don’t expect them to overlook the Jackets and assume an easy two points are already theirs even though they have already defeated the Blue Jackets three times this season. The Islanders have won six straight against the Jackets and 8 of the last 10 matchups.

New York has been dealing with some injuries as they head towards the post-season with arguably their best player, Mathew Barzal, out for the last month as well as minute-munching defenseman, Sebastian Aho out of the lineup.

Thankfully for New York, an experienced and disciplined team, a tight defensive system and a world-class goalie can cover for many deficiencies.

Although this year hasn’t been easy for them, they are going to be a tough out come the playoffs.

Season Series

11/12/22 NYI 4 vs CBJ 3
11/25/22 NYI 3 @ CBJ 2
12/29/22 NYI 2 vs CBJ 1


New York   Columbus
2.99 (22) GPG 2.69 (29)
2.68 (5) GAPG 3.89 (31)
16.3% (30) PP% 19.0% (25)
82.2% (9) PK% 76.3% (22)
48.93% (21) 5v5 Shot Attempt % 45.6% (28)
48.68% (22) 5v5 Unblocked shot attempt % 45.1% (28)
8.95% (12) 5v5 Shooting % 7.3% (29)
.927 (5) 5v5 Save % .904 (27)
Brock Nelson, 30 G Leader Boone Jenner, 24
Mathew Barzal, 37 A Leader Johnny Gaudreau, 48
Brock Nelson, 65 P Leader Johnny Gaudreau, 65
Scott Mayfield, 77 PIM Leader Mathieu Olivier, 81
16-15-5 Home / Road 13-20-2
7-2-1 Last 10 3-6-1

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets

Johnny Gaudreau Patrik Laine Kirill Marchenko
Jack Roslovic Boone Jenner Kent Johnson
Liam Foudy Hunter McKown Lane Pederson
Eric Robinson Sean Kuraly Mathieu Olivier
Nick Blankenburg Erik Gudbranson
Tim Berni Andrew Peeke
Gavin Bayreuther Adam Boqvist
Elvis Merzlikins
Michael Hutchinson

New York Islanders

Anders Lee Bo Horvat Simon Homstrom
Pierre Engvall Brock Nelson Kyle Palmieri
Zach Parise J.G. Pageau Hudson Fasching
Cal Clutterbuck Casey Cizikas Matt Martin
Adam Pelech Scott Mayfield
Alexander Romanov Ryan Pulock
Samuel Bolduc Noah Dobson
Ilya Sorokin
Semyon Varlamov