With just 16 chances to earn points left on their 56-game schedule, the Columbus Blue Jackets realize they are running out of time to make the postseason.
Licking its wounds a bit, Columbus has returned home following a 1-5 road trip and will try to turn its season around on home ice against a tough Central Division opponent.
The Blue Jackets will play the Tampa Bay Lightning for the third and fourth times in a span of 10 days on Tuesday and Thursday nights in Columbus.
Columbus is 2-1-1 so far against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, but the disappointment of last week’s roadie — plus a brutal 1-6-1 skid in its last eight contests overall — has to leave the club wondering if there is really a chance to gain significant ground in the standings.
Residing in seventh place in the eight-team Central, the Blue Jackets still sit just five points behind fourth-place Nashville, which has won seven of eight games to move into a playoff spot.
However, those same five points are the margin of separation between coach John Tortorella’s club and last-place Detroit. And the Red Wings are at least riding the Sunday high of trouncing the Tampa Bay 5-1 to break a 17-game losing streak in Tampa.
Columbus is convinced it is playing its style of play, but the 36-point output through 40 games says otherwise.
“Sometimes during the season, you play the right way and don’t get the result,” said captain Nick Foligno. “But we’re 1-5 right now in a time when we need to be 5-1. That’s the disappointing part.”
Florida’s Chris Driedger made 32 saves Sunday as the Blue Jackets ended the trip by losing 3-0, the fourth shutout they have suffered in the past 20 games. They also lost center Riley Nash to a lower-body injury in the second period.
The Lightning, meanwhile, ended their four-game homestand with Sunday’s Detroit downer.
One of the top three scoring teams in the league, Tampa Bay tallied early Saturday en route to a 2-1 win over the Red Wings, but the Lightning failed to score again until the third period a day later, and by then they were down 4-0. Victor Hedman’s marker finally ended the goalless drought of 96 minutes, 46 seconds.
“Everybody likes to score, and when you’re used to scoring and you don’t, it gets a little uncomfortable,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Then you start taking shortcuts thinking you can give yourself a better opportunity to score. The only way you can do it is to work your way out of it.”
Much of the frustration was due to the fantastic play of Detroit goalie Thomas Greiss. The 35-year-old German native’s blocker-and-stick save of Steven Stamkos at 7:07 of the second kept Detroit ahead 1-0 and on track for only its fourth road win of the season.
“Eventually pucks that might not go in will start going in,” Cooper added. “It’s the cycle of hockey and we just have to work our way through this.”
–Field Level Media