Jackets Host Ottawa Tonight
Fresh off a franchise-record shutout streak, Fredrik Norrena likely will be in net looking to continue the Blue Jackets' best stretch this season on Sunday against the injury-plagued Ottawa Senators.
Columbus (9-16-2), playing its first game at Nationwide Arena since Nov. 25, has three losses and two ties all time against Ottawa (15-14-1).
Pascal Leclaire started the first two games of Columbus' road swing and lost to Vancouver and Calgary. Hitchcock went with Norrena against defending Western Conference champion Edmonton on Dec. 2, and he responded with 21 saves in a 4-0 win.
Three nights later, Norrena turned in a 42-save performance in a 3-0 win over Colorado. He started his third game in a row Saturday against St. Louis, but his streak ended when he gave up Bill Guerin's power-play goal 12:44 into the second period.
Including the final 2:44 of a home win over Minnesota before the road trip, Norrena's run ended at 155 minutes, 28 seconds - 90 seconds longer than Ron Tugnutt's franchise record set from March 9-19, 2001 during the Blue Jackets' inaugural season.
"Things came together," Norrena said Saturday. "Now, we score some goals and get the lead, it's been pretty nice to play out there."
The 33-year-old Norrena is playing his first season in the NHL after 17 in Finland and Sweden. Norrena also had two shutouts for silver medal-winning Finland at the Turin Olympics.
Against the Blues, Columbus got two goals and an assist from Sergei Fedorov en route to its first three-game winning streak since March 28-April 3. The Blue Jackets have four wins under Hitchcock since his first game behind the bench on Nov. 24.
That's one win fewer than they had in 20 games under the fired Gerard Gallant and interim coach Gary Agnew.
"When a coach gets fired and the slate's clean, it's really on the players," Hitchcock said. "I said before I took the job I thought there was a good spirit. We needed to gain some confidence by getting a couple of wins."
Following this contest, the Blue Jackets head out for road games at Dallas and Phoenix.
Ottawa is trying to avoid its third three-game losing streak this season, and hopes to have captain Daniel Alfredsson back in the lineup. Alfredsson, third on the Senators in scoring with just 24 points after a career-high 103 last season, has missed the last two games including Saturday's 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers with a hip injury.
Ottawa also was without Wade Redden as he missed his second straight game with a chest injury. He didn't travel with the team, which begins a stretch of four road games in seven days.
"I thought our guys did a good job of playing well without them," said Jason Spezza, who scored the lone goal against New York. "We played a pretty strong game. We had just as many chances as them if not more, we just didn't bury them."
Spezza has goals in each of his last four games. He also is on a season-high eight-game points streak, totaling six goals and six assists.
It's not known who will start in net for Ottawa, but Martin Gerber has played better recently away from Scotiabank Place, allowing just three goals while winning his last two starts. Ray Emery is 1-2-0 with a 4.36 goals-against average in his last three road starts.