Preview: Blue Jackets vs. Senators
TUESDAY, 7 PM | NATIONWIDE ARENA
WATCH: FOX Sports Ohio | LISTEN: 97.1 The Fan
TIM HORTONS JACKETS PACK
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards made a couple of lineup changes prior to Saturday night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins: Nikita Nikitin returned for his first game since Oct. 19 and Curtis McElhinney made his second start of the season. Whether those changes remain in place for Tuesday's game against the Ottawa Senators won't be known until at least Tuesday morning, but the Blue Jackets did receive another strong performance from their backup goaltender, and Richards said it has earned him consideration for more playing time.
The Senators come into Columbus following a 4-3 shootout loss at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, Ont. on Sunday, but that wasn't the most disturbing part of their afternoon. Dallas rookie Valeri Nichushkin collided with Senators goalie Craig Anderson early in overtime, and Anderson was taken off the ice on a stretcher but was feeling much better after the game. According to the team, Anderson is not expected to play Tuesday night in Columbus, meaning youngster Robin Lehner is Ottawa's likely starter.
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These two teams haven't met since a 4-3 win by the Senators in October 2011 - and it was a devastating loss for the Blue Jackets, who held a 3-2 lead in the final minute of regulation but came up empty-handed. Jason Spezza tied the game, and then Milan Michalek scored the game winner in the dying seconds of regulation on the power play.
The situation for the Blue Jackets is not unlike what they faced two weeks ago: coming off a four-game losing streak, their only choice was to re-group and re-focus for a key stretch of home games that could get them back on track.
Wins over Vancouver, New Jersey and Toronto pulled the Jackets to .500 (5-5-0), but in the week since, they've dropped three straight including a back-to-back series to the Pittsburgh Penguins over the weekend. Columbus was outscored 7-2 in the two-game set and never held a lead, and Saturday's loss was particularly frustrating because they never really tested Penguins rookie goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, who made 19 saves to record his first career shutout.
Up next on the schedule is Tuesday's game against the Senators, a team that has scuffled in recent weeks but rallied late in Sunday's game to earn a point. Bobby Ryan, the key component of a major offseason trade made by Senators GM Bryan Murray, scored the tying goal with nine seconds left to force overtime against Dallas. Ottawa has won three of its past 10 contests and has not played well at home, but after opening the season on a long road trip, they're pretty accustomed to playing away from the Canadian capital.
One of the storylines in this first meeting of the season between Ottawa and Columbus revolves around a trade made in the summer of 2012, when the Jackets sent defenseman Marc Methot to his hometown Senators in exchange for Nick Foligno, who has become a key part of the dressing room in Columbus. Both players will play their first game against the clubs that drafted them on Tuesday night.
Most importantly for the Blue Jackets is putting the Pittsburgh series in the past and keying on this week of games. After hosting the Senators on Tuesday, the Jackets welcome the New York Rangers on Thursday (anyone know of some things we could write about for that one?) and the New York Islanders on Saturday night. It's an important part of their schedule and one that, if successful, could propel them back into the division playoff race.
vs. NEW YORK RANGERS
THURSDAY, 7 P.M.