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GameDay Caterwaul: Florida Panthers at Columbus Blue Jackets

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Cats finish roadie in big game with playoff implications

Florida Panthers v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Panthers (29-17-5 63P) at Blue Jackets (28-16-9 65P)

  • WHEN: 7:00 p.m. ET
  • WHERE: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
  • ON THE TUBE: FOX Sports Florida, Fox Sports Ohio
  • ON THE DIAL: 560 WQAM (D/B), 640 WMEN (PB), 1370 WAXE (TC), Thunder 100.3 (Keys)
  • SOCIALS: #FlaPanthers, #CBJ, #FLAvsCBJ, @LitterBoxCats, LBC FaceBook
  • ENEMY INTEL: Jackets Cannon
  • FLA IN SEASON SERIES: Game 3 of 3 (1-1-0)
  • LAST MEETING: @CBJ 4, FLA 1 - (Recap) - 12/31/2019
  • NEXT MEETING: Playoffs or 2020-21 season
  • PROJECTED STARTERS: Bobrovsky (20-13-5 .898/ 3.25 1SO) vs Merzlikins (10-6-4 .925/ 2.42 3SO)
  • PLAYER STATS: Florida / Columbus

Scouting Report (Field Level Media)

Considering how successful Columbus has been against Florida at home, there is a solid good chance the Blue Jackets can extend their current point streak when they play host to the Panthers on Tuesday.

The surging Blue Jackets will look to earn at least one point in a ninth straight contest Tuesday night while also trying for a seventh consecutive home victory over a Panthers club that also is playing well of late.

Since Dec. 9, Columbus is an impressive 17-2-5, and the Blue Jackets are currently on a 7-0-1 stretch following a 4-3 win at Montreal on Sunday. Pierre-Luc Dubois had two goals and an assist, and Elvis Merzlikins made 27 saves for his sixth straight win, posting a 1.34 goals-against average during that run.

The Blue Jackets have outscored their opponents 25-11 during the past eight games. In the tight Eastern Conference playoff race, Columbus sits third in the Metropolitan Division.

”We should feel good about ourselves,” a positive, but cautious, Columbus coach John Tortorella told NHL.com. “We’ll just get ready to play our next game. It’s a very important time of year to stay flatlined. Whether you win or lose, (you) just go about your business.”

That’s certainly been the approach the Blue Jackets seem to have taken while amid a stellar 12-0-1 home stretch against Florida. Defenseman Zach Werenski recorded a hat trick and Merzlikins stopped 36 shots during a 4-1 home win on New Year’s Eve to even the season series against the Panthers, who beat Columbus 4-1 at home on Dec. 7.

While the Blue Jackets have been hot, Florida has arguably been equally impressive while winning 14 of the past 19, including a comeback 5-3 win at Toronto on Monday.

Defenseman-turned-forward Mark Pysyk recorded his first career hat trick, and the Panthers scored four consecutive third-period goals to erase a 3-1 Maple Leafs lead and win for the seventh time in eight contests.

Florida, with 63 points, is two shy of Columbus and currently third in the Atlantic Division.

”All the games from here on out are huge ... especially teams we’re batting for a playoff spot against,” Panthers forward Mike Hoffman, who has six goals and nine assists in 12 games during 2020, told 560-WQAM.

”They’re four-point games. Obviously, to get another two (Monday) is big for us.”

After ex-Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves on Monday, it’s possible Sam Montembeault (4-2-1, 3.35 goals-against average) could be in net for Florida on Tuesday. Bobrovsky, though, has posted a 2.54 goals-against average in the two starts against his former team this season.

It’s uncertain if Florida will have the services of star Aleksander Barkov, who missed Monday’s contest due to a lower-body injury that has left him day-to-day. Barkov (16 goals, 38 assists) has failed to earn a point in his past three games at Columbus.

The Blue Jackets will be without key forward Alexander Wennberg, who is sidelined three to four weeks due to an upper-body injury sustained Sunday. Dubois, meanwhile, has those two goals with six assists in the past four games. Teammate Oliver Bjorkstrand has recorded 10 goals and three assists during his eight-game point streak.

Columbus’ Matiss Kivlenieks, called up as a backup while No. 1 netminder Joonas Korpisalo recovers from a torn meniscus, is 1-0-1 with a 1.49 goals-against average in two starts.

Saturday in the Atlantic (Standings/Panthers Playoff Chances):

  • Vancouver (30-18-5 65P) at BOSTON (31-10-12 77P) 7 p.m.
  • Colorado (28-16-6 62P) at BUFFALO (23-22-7 53P) 7 p.m.
  • Vegas (27-20-7 61P) at TAMPA BAY (32-15-5 69P) 7 p.m. ESPN+
  • MONTREAL (24-23-7 55P) at New Jersey (18-24-9 45P) 7 p.m.
  • Anaheim (21-26-5 47P) at OTTAWA (18-24-10 46P) 7:30

Idle: TOR (63P), DET (28P)

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