After splitting a mini-series with one of the top teams in the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets must fare better in back-to-back contests against a club that’s among the league’s worst.
The Blue Jackets open a six-game road stretch on Saturday, trying to hand the lowly Detroit Red Wings a fourth consecutive defeat.
Fighting to move into playoff position in the Central Division, Columbus finds itself in a rather middling 3-1-3 stretch and coming off a 2-1-1 showing against Carolina from the last four games. Following Monday’s 3-0 home loss to the Hurricanes, the Blue Jackets managed to force overtime on Oliver Bjorkstrand’s late goal Thursday before falling 4-3.
“I think with what we were up against (Thursday), I think it makes it a huge point,” captain Nick Foligno told the Blue Jackets’ official website. “That might help us down the stretch here.
“Anytime you can get points, you’re going to take them. Obviously, we want two, and OT can go either way.”
Columbus most certainly must claim four points at Detroit on Saturday and Sunday. The Red Wings have a Central Division-worst 24 points and have been outscored 12-1 during their current three-game losing streak. The Blue Jackets are 2-0-1 versus Detroit this season.
Bjorkstrand, Columbus’ leader with 28 points, has a goal with three assists against the Red Wings this season. Teammate Joonas Korpisalo made 29 saves Thursday and has stopped 54 of 57 shots while winning both 2020-21 starts versus Detroit. Backup Elvis Merzlikins made 24 saves in a 3-2 overtime loss at Detroit on Jan. 19.
Considering the Red Wings’ current offensive issues, they might continue to struggle regardless of whom is in the Columbus net. Bobby Ryan’s goal late in the first period of Thursday’s 7-1 loss at Nashville is all the offense Detroit has been able to muster over the last three games.
However, Detroit’s problems on both ends of the ice are an obvious reason for its overall status this season.
“We haven’t really put teams on their heels for long periods of time,” said Detroit forward Dylan Larkin, who’s gone without a point in three straight games.
“We got two games coming up against Columbus. A team that, if we don’t work hard, we’re going to be in for some trouble because they work and they compete, and we’re going to have to match that at home. … That’s what we’ve got to get ready for.”
Detroit’s Thomas Greiss, who has just two wins in 21 appearances this season, was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals on the first seven shots he faced Thursday. He made 26 saves in a 3-2 home loss to Columbus on Jan. 18. If teammate Jonathan Bernier remains day to day with a leg issue, Calvin Pickard, who allowed four goals on 23 shots Thursday, could see time in the Red Wings’ net this weekend.
Ryan, who snapped a six-game point drought Thursday, has recorded three of his seven goals, plus an assist, against the Blue Jackets this season.
–Field Level Media