NHL Hockey

Final 1 2 3 Tot
Columbus 1 2 2 5
Vancouver 0 0 0 0
7:00 PM PT8:00 PM MT9:00 PM CT10:00 PM ET2:00 GMT10:00 7:00 PM MST9:00 PM EST6:00 UAE (+1)22:00 ET23:00 BRT, March 24, 2019
Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia  Attendance: 17,805

Blue Jackets clinging to playoff hopes, need win over Canucks

Columbus Blue Jackets at Vancouver Canucks

  1. Vancouver has won four straight over Columbus, its longest active winning streak against any opponent. However, Columbus has taken points in four straight road games in this series, going 3-0-1 in that span dating back to March 2015.
  2. Columbus has gone 0-2-1 on its current road trip, but they remain one of four NHL teams with a better road record this season (20-14-2) than home (20-16-2). Minnesota, St. Louis and Toronto are the others.
  3. Artemi Panarin has five points in March after totaling at least 12 points in every other month this season; he has a -8 plus/minus this month after finishing each previous month this season with a positive rating.
  4. Loui Eriksson has a +15 career plus/minus mark against the Blue Jackets, his highest against any opponent. He had his first career hat trick against Columbus on December 18, 2008.

The Columbus Blue Jackets went all-in at the NHL trade deadline.

Now, they're in danger of missing out.

The Blue Jackets (40-30-4) will try to return to playoff territory Sunday as they visit the Vancouver Canucks (32-33-10). Columbus has lost three straight games and is a mere 5-7-1 since the trade deadline.

This is not how things were supposed to go after general manager Jarmo Kekalainen made a series of moves designed to put the Blue Jackets in contention for the Stanley Cup. A postseason berth was seemingly a foregone conclusion.

However, the Blue Jackets fell 4-1 to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night, dropping out of the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

"We just have to have some sort of urgency to try and get back into this, or we have no chance," coach John Tortorella told reporters. "I just don't think we understand the level that we need to play at right now."

Matt Duchene, the most significant acquisition at the deadline, has played reasonably well since moving to Columbus from Ottawa. He has three goals and three assists in 15 games as a Blue Jacket and has been praised for playing well defensively.

But the Blue Jackets have averaged only 2.08 goals per game since the deadline, and the top line of Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson has practically disappeared from the scoresheet.

Panarin was enjoying an outstanding season before the deadline, but he has only one goal and a minus-nine rating since. Kekalainen decided to keep him at the deadline even though the winger is due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and has stated he will consider offers from other clubs.

Dubois has mustered only one assist since the deadline, and Atkinson has only one helper in his past six games.

"We have to start playing like a team," Kekalainen told The Athletic. "Right now, we're looking like a group of individuals who are pulling in different directions. We don't look like a team."

The Blue Jackets are in danger of going winless on their three-game road trip through Western Canada, which concludes Sunday. But Columbus could have a hard time pulling off a win against the resurgent Canucks, who have flirted with playoff contention in recent days, but are now eight points out of the second wild-card spot following a 3-1 home-ice loss to Calgary on Saturday night.

Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno is expected to remain in Columbus after returning home to deal with a family emergency. Top goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, another pending unrestricted free agent, is considered doubtful because of an undisclosed injury.

It is not clear when Bobrovsky got hurt.

Meanwhile, the Canucks could get a boost on the injury front. Winger Sven Baertschi is considered likely to return to the lineup Sunday as the Canucks play their second of back-to-back home games.

Baertschi has been sidelined since Feb. 2, when he started feeling poorly due to post-concussion syndrome. He missed 30 games with a concussion earlier in the season and has skated in only 22 contests in 2018-19. But he has produced eight goals and five assists for 13 points while in action.

"I've been feeling good the last couple weeks," said Baertschi, who was enthused about his return to practice in recent days.

Baertschi has suffered multiple concussions during his career. Consequently, some observers questioned the wisdom of reinserting him in the lineup when the club's playoff chances have appeared slim in spite of the recent resurgence. The reasoning was that the reward might not outweigh the risk to Baertschi's long-term health.

However, Baertschi has been anxious to play and never thought about shutting himself down for the rest of the campaign.

"I think anytime you're hurt for a long time, you want to (play)," said Baertschi. "(Canucks staff) never really pushed me through this (recovery) process. They were great. They gave me all the help I needed. They told me to make sure to take my time and go through this process the right way. Obviously, I'm thankful for that. Now, when I come back, I want to make sure I leave it all out there.

"This was my plan. I wanted to come back. I wanted to make sure that I'm 100 percent and I wanted to make sure that I go into a game with confidence. I'm ready to play. As soon as Coach tells me I'm in, I'm good to go."

The Canucks are 4-0-2 in their last six games after losing 3-1 to Calgary on Saturday night. Canucks coach Travis Green faces some tough lineup decisions Sunday, but he does not think Baertschi should sit out the rest of the season.

"No, he's declared himself healthy," Green told reporters. "That means he's healthy and ready to go and wants to play, most importantly. He's an option now. We'll see."

--Field Level Media

Updated March 24, 2019

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