PREVIEW: Blue Jackets look to stabilize ship in New Jersey

The Blue Jackets have lost back-to-back games to two of the league’s best teams in Carolina and Tampa Bay.

They need to make sure, after that pair of unbalanced losses, that the next team to beat them isn’t themselves.

When things go wrong in a sport as fierce as the National Hockey League, it can be difficult to raise the bar and not let one loss become two, two become three, and so on. Head coach Brad Larsen has admitted it, and his take is the Columbus itself is the only team that can get the Blue Jackets out of a slippage that now includes just three wins in the last 13 games.

“It’s our job,” he said. “Honestly, you’re going to have to get out of this. Nobody’s going to give you wins because you lost them. There are other teams that take losses, some really good teams that I have seen. So there is only one way. It is to roll up your sleeves. ”

There’s no doubt it’s been a tough time for the Blue Jackets, who played Tuesday night’s game without their best defensive pair (Zach Werenski and jake bean), his most prominent striker (Alexandre Texier), his best goalkeeper (Elvis Merzlikins) and several other pieces in Justin danforth, Gregory Hofmann, Gavin Bayreuther and Daniil Tarasov.

It looks like only Bean – who didn’t play Tuesday due to illness – in that squad will be back in time to face the Devils tonight, but that’s the landscape of an 82-game NHL season, in particular one with all of the COVID issues the league is currently facing.

“We’re in it right now,” Larsen admitted after Tuesday’s game. “Nobody pities you. I’m definitely not going to sit here and feel sorry for us. We have to replay. We have to practice tomorrow and we are going to replay, then after that we will. there and they feel sorry for themselves or woe to me, then we’re going to be in trouble.

“I always come back to, there are a lot of guys playing right now who have told me that they can play at this level and they want to play at this level. They want to play big minutes at this level. Now’s the time to show it. Some guys show things and some don’t. ”

And if there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about keeping morale up, it’s Jakub voracek. The Czech forward is set to make his 1,000th game tonight, which means he’s seen a thing or two since his stint in the NHL.

Because of this, he is able to offer a valuable perspective on the squad’s situation and what they are going through as they attempt to right the ship after allowing seven goals in consecutive games for the first time ever. the history of the team.

“Honestly, it’s frustrating, but we’re not in a bad spot here,” said Voracek. “We’ve had three tough road trips. The schedule was really tough. And right now we have a .500 squad with a lot of home games so we have to make sure we get back to the way we played in. the top 20 in the season, and have to fight for the playoffs. I’d say it’s been frustrating, but everyone goes through it in a season, unless you’re Tampa or Washington.

“It does happen. We are a young team. We have to find a way to shift to another gear, and I’m pretty sure that will happen (tonight) in Jersey.”

Know the enemy

With an infusion of talented youngsters and the offseason acquisition of star defenseman Dougie Hamilton, New Jersey came into the year as a chic pick to climb the Metropolitan Division standings and threaten a playoff berth. .

The Devils have only made one playoff appearance in the past nine years, and the bad news is that it seems despite all of the roster’s promises – including a pair of No.1 picks in the general classification in Nico Hischier (2017) and Jack Hughes (2019) – the slippage should continue in a 10th season. The Devils enter that game with Columbus tied for sixth in the Metro, five points from a playoff spot and 10 behind the division’s fourth-place team, Pittsburgh.

New Jersey was 7-3-2 in its first 12 games, but the wheels have largely come loose since, with the Devils winning just six of the next 22 games (6-13-3). The team have won three of their last four games, including two in overtime, but the defense has been tough with the Devils allowing at least three goals in 10 straight games.

Overall, New Jersey is in the bottom half of the league in all major stats except for shots on goal, where they’re 13th at 81.3%. The Devils are 19th in the NHL in scorers (2.88 goals per game), 26th in team defense (3.44 goals against per game) and 30th in power-play (14.3 percent). There’s some tough injury news too, with Hamilton (broken jaw) and Hischier (lower body) as well as goalkeeper Jonathan Bernier (hip) and forwards Yegor Sharangovich and Pavel Zache (COVID protocols).

That leaves New Jersey without four of its top 10 scorers, but leader Jesper Bratt (9-21-30) is having an impressive season at 23 and Toronto import Andreas Johnsson (9-12-21) has been a good player. Hughes has only played 17 games due to injury, but he’s been impressive with eight goals and nine assists, including a 3-6-9 line in the last four games. Dawson Mercer (9-10-19) also adds depth while Damon Severson (5-9-14) and PK Subban (2-11-13) add offense from the blue line.

Bernier has appeared in 10 games this year, but with him Mackenzie Blackwood is clearly No. 1. The 25-year-old in his fourth NHL season is 8-7-3 with a 3.32 GPA and a percentage of stops of 0.895. 20 matches (19 starts). Six different goaltenders have played for New Jersey this season, and none have a GPA less than 3.00.

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