It’s been a relatively rough three-week stretch for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but they can end the month on a positive note by avenging their most recent defeat.
With No. 1 goalie Joonas Korpisalo possibly ready to make his first start of 2020, the Blue Jackets aim to keep the surging Minnesota Wild from a fifth consecutive road victory on Friday night.
Currently sitting in the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, Columbus is mired in a 1-4-5 stretch. That lone victory came 4-3 in overtime versus Ottawa on Monday, but the Blue Jackets were unable to build on it while losing 5-4 at Minnesota one night later. Columbus scored three third-period goals to nearly erase the Wild’s 4-1 advantage, but left frustrated with the way things unfolded.
“It’s a disappointing effort in a lot of guys (Tuesday) that normally are giving us the minutes,” captain Nick Foligno, who has four goals with an assist in the last four games.
“I’m not trying to be negative — I like the way we found ourselves — but man, we’re not in a position with the people we have in this room to be spotting teams leads and expect to win.”
While the Blue Jackets have been hit hard by injuries, including to star defenseman Seth Jones, they need to improve defensively after yielding 32 goals over the last eight games. It doesn’t help that goalie Elvis Merzlikins (12-9-7, 2.44 goals-against average as a starter) exited Monday following a collision with Ottawa’s Anthony Duclair.
However, Korpisalo, the team’s No. 1 netminder with 17 wins and a 2.49 goals-against average as a starter, could be set to make his first start since Dec. 29. Korpisalo missed 24 games with a torn meniscus before stopping 14 of 15 shots in relief on Monday. Rookie Matiss Kivlenieks saved 35 shots at Minnesota this week.
The Wild, three points out of the final Wild-card spot in the crowded West, kept the offense coming during a 7-1 road rout over lowly Detroit on Thursday. It was the fourth win in five games for Minnesota, which is amid an 8-3-1 stretch.
“This is fun when we’re all going like this,” Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, who had two goals with an assist Thursday, told KFAN-FM 100.3. “Winning is fun. Guys don’t like to lose, especially with this race in the West. We’ve got to win every game we can.
“We know we’ve got to be sharp (Friday). (Columbus) is a team that is going to be hungry and looking for a little revenge.”
Alex Stalock made 25 saves against the Red Wings to post his third consecutive victory. He stopped 24 shots versus Columbus this week, but Devan Dubnyk could get the start for the Wild in this back-to-back scenario. Dubnyk has yielded at least three goals in three straight starts.
Mikko Koivu has just four goals on the season for Minnesota, but two came against Columbus on Tuesday, and he recorded two assists Thursday. Ryan Donato, meanwhile, has two goals and two assists in the last two games, and Matt Fiala has recorded nine goals and eight assists over his last 12 contests.
Columbus’ Pierre-Luc Dubois, two shy of a third straight 20-goal season, has one goal and three assists in his last four contests versus Minnesota.
–Field Level Media
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