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The Columbus Blue Jackets were one of the NHL's best home teams through the first four months of the season. Their recent struggles at Nationwide Arena, however, have them in danger of falling further out of playoff contention.
The Blue Jackets look to end their franchise-record seven-game home losing streak when they host the Tampa Bay Lighting for the first time in over four years Sunday afternoon.
Columbus (30-28-11) lost 2-1 in overtime to Edmonton on Friday for its third consecutive defeat overall while falling to 0-4-3 at home since winning a season-high six straight at Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets, 16-10-7 at home, haven't won there since a 3-2 victory over Vancouver on Jan. 15.
Columbus, 12th in the Western Conference and seven points out of the final playoff spot, will play the second of a five-game homestand Sunday. Eight of the Blue Jackets' final 13 games will be at Nationwide Arena.
On Friday, the Blue Jackets suffered their third straight one-goal loss. They have been outscored 7-4 during that span while scoring one goal in their last two contests.
"It's just frustrating," said Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team has been outscored 28-13 during its skid at home. "We battled, but we didn't execute.
"You're not going to win a lot of games scoring one goal. We're in the hunt because we check, we work, but we've had timely goals all year. Now, we're not getting that."
Dan Fritsche's goal with eight-tenths of a second remaining tied the game Friday, but his turnover in overtime resulted in the Oilers' game-winner.
Pascal Leclaire made 15 saves in falling to 0-2-2 in his last five home starts.
"It's a big point, but again, we lost one in overtime," said Leclaire, who is 23-15-6 with a 2.15 goals-against average this season. "All of the points are very important."
Rick Nash, the Blue Jackets' leading scorer with 35 goals, was held without a goal for the second game in a row after scoring four in his previous five contests. Nikolai Zherdev, second on the team with 24 goals, hasn't scored in seven straight games.
Zherdev had a goal and Nash added an assist in Columbus' 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay on Jan. 13, 2006 in the teams' most recent meeting.
The Lightning (26-34-8) are making their first appearance in Columbus since a 1-0 win on Oct. 23, 2003. Tampa Bay is 4-2-0 with a tie all-time against the Blue Jackets.
Vincent Lecavalier leads the Lightning with 32 goals this season, but he'll be trying to snap a 12-game stretch without one Sunday.
Tampa Bay, last in the Eastern Conference with 60 points, looks to avoid a fifth straight loss after falling 2-1 in overtime at New Jersey on Friday.
Michel Ouellet scored for the Lightning, who have lost nine of 10 and been outscored 12-4 in their last four contests.
"We haven't scored goals," coach John Tortorella said. "That falls on our core people."
Martin St. Louis has a team-leading 51 assists for Tampa Bay this season, but just two in his last 10 games.
|Mar 09 '08||TBL 3 at CBJ 5||J. Chimera|