BLUE JACKETS (16-17-4) at DEVILS (15-16-7)
TV: FS-O, MSG PLUS
Last 10: Columbus 6-3-1; New Jersey 4-4-2
Season series: This is the third of four games between the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils. The first two were played at Nationwide Arena and won by the Blue Jackets, with Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson doing much of the damage. The duo combined for five goals and 11 points.
Big story: One point separates these teams in the Metropolitan Division standings and each will be trying to get back to .500 in the first game out of the Christmas break.
The Blue Jackets seemed to find a really balanced combination on Monday night in Carolina, and assuming everyone's healthy (we'll find out Friday morning post-morning skate), don't expect many changes in New Jersey.
Richards got a solid effort in the third period from his group against the Hurricanes and with both Derek MacKenzie and Jack Skille back in the lineup, he was able to assemble four lines with scoring ability and all four played a big part in the Blue Jackets' thrilling come-from-behind victory. Those line combinations should remain intact when they meet the Devils in Newark on Friday night, but the big question lies between the pipes.
Do the Blue Jackets go back to Mike McKenna, who was very good in Raleigh (and did so on a moment's notice) or, if Curtis McElhinney is healthy, does he get the net? We'll find out after Friday's morning skate.
The third of four meetings this season between the Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils has quite a bit riding on it.
Columbus took the previous two games against New Jersey - both of which were played at Nationwide Arena - but Friday's game at Prudential Center figures to be yet another in a long line of vital divisional games as the log-jammed Metropolitan Division refuses to separate.
While the first and second spots are currently on solid ground with Pittsburgh and Washington leading the way, that third playoff berth in the Metro is a highly sought-after item and there are five teams pursuing it - five teams that happen to be separated by a mere point in the standings. The Blue Jackets, winners of six of their last 10 games and finding their game of late, play their fourth of five straight Metro Division games on Friday in New Jersey and they've gone 2-1-0 so far in that stretch.
The Devils, on the other hand, don't have a good taste in their mouths after losing 5-2 in Chicago prior to the Christmas break. They were in the hockey game most of the way, but the Blackhawks (as they so often do) pulled away in the third period at United Center in what ended up as a disappointing defeat for New Jersey, which was coming off a thrilling comeback in Washington the game prior.
How much is on the line in this game, you ask? The Blue Jackets (16-17-4) can pull to .500 with a victory and, if they do so in regulation, will surpass the Devils in the division standings.
VS. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
SUNDAY, 6 P.M.
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