Blue Jackets-Islanders Preview
The Columbus Blue Jackets missed an opportunity to add some comfort to their playoff position in their last game by losing to a Metropolitan Division foe vying for the same postseason spot.
They'll now try to take advantage of a matchup with one that's out of the playoff chase Sunday when they visit the rested but banged-up New York Islanders, a team the Blue Jackets have dominated.
According to its coach, Columbus (36-28-6) did plenty right in Friday's 3-1 home loss to the New York Rangers despite being knocked from the Metropolitan's third and final playoff slot.
"There were lots of things I liked about this game," coach Todd Richards said. "I was disappointed by the result, but I thought our guys in tough circumstances played a hard game. They were physical, they stood up for each other. It wasn't easy and we were right in it all the way to the end."
Richards' club, though, gave up three straight goals after taking a 1-0 lead on an early third-period score by Nick Foligno. The Blue Jackets now find themselves battling for the final wild-card spot in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race.
They could be on the optimistic end of that chase with a little power-play help. Columbus went 0 for 3 against the Rangers and are now scoreless in 29 chances during a 4-3-1 stretch.
"We need to focus on where our power play needs to be," center Brandon Dubinsky told the team's official website. "It could have been the difference today. We've got to figure it out and figure it out quick."
The Jackets have, however, had consistency in net. Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves against the Rangers and is 4-2-1 with a 1.76 goals-against average and .942 save percentage since March 8.
He's won all six of his starts in Long Island while allowing eight goals, all the more reason Columbus should be confident headed there. The Blue Jackets have won both meetings this season with their new division foe, and they're 11-1-3 with one tie in the all-time series with the Islanders.
Most recently, Dubinsky and Ryan Johansen each had a goal and two assists in a 5-2 home win over the Islanders on Nov. 9 while Bobrovsky ran his career record against them to 9-1-0. Cam Atkinson added a goal and an assist and has three of each in three career games against the Islanders.
New York (26-35-9) hasn't played since Tuesday's 6-0 home loss to Minnesota, its worst defeat of the season.
The time off came at a good time as injuries have piled up for the last-place Islanders. Defenseman Brian Strait broke his left hand while blocking a shot in the second period, adding to a list that includes Michael Grabner (concussion) and Lubomir Visnovsky (upper body). The team has been without star forward John Tavares for 10 games after his season-ending injury in the Olympics.
Even during the four-day layoff, the injury issues continued with top scorer Kyle Okposo leaving Friday's practice with a lower-body injury. He's considered day-to-day.
"It takes me longer to read the injury report than it has at any other point since I've been here," coach Jack Capuano told the team's official website. "I haven't seen anything like this in a while."
Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov is 19-5-3 with a 1.86 GAA in his career against Columbus, but all of the wins came with San Jose.