Ryan Murray Returns to Columbus Blue Jackets in Tampa Bay Showdown


Just as soon as the road trip began for the Columbus Blue Jackets, it’ll come to an end, as the brief two-game swing through the Sunshine state concludes tonight when the Jackets play host to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are playing just absolutely stellar hockey right now.

The Atlantic Division leaders sit with a 31-15-4 record – that’s good for 66 points, for those of you who care about such things – and are winners of four of their last five, including most recently a 5-1 thrashing of our old pals in Detroit. They boast the league’s #1 scoring offense, averaging 3.2 goals per game, and have a red-hot center in Cedric Paquette, who has nine points (four goals and five assists) over his last three games, with a hat trick over Hockeytown. Yikes.

If there’s any break the Blue Jackets can catch tonight, I’d say it’s the probability of Ben Bishop getting a night off, which would be awesome. Does Columbus really want to go up against a 25-8-2 record, a 2.36 GAA and .913 save percentage? I know I wouldn’t. Bishop has started the last six games for Tampa Bay, his longest starting streak of the year, so I’d say he’s getting rest tonight.

Now, to the Blue Jackets. WELCOME BACK, RYAN MURRAY YOU BEAUTIFUL MAN. My how we have missed you.

Yes yes, Ryan Murray is scheduled to make his return to the line up tonight, and is making his first appearance since November 1st and tonight will mark just his fifth game of the season. The Jackets got Artem Anisimov back against the Panthers and he proved to be a huge asset in his first game back, so lets hope Murray does the same thing.

Curtis McElhinney continues to play well in relief of the injured Sergei Bobrovsky, but just as the case as been all year, the defense in front of him needs to step up and play better. There’s an interesting case tonight though – the Jackets sent Josh Anderson back down to Springfield to make room for Murray, and with his return, Columbus sits at nine defensemen. To switch things up tonight, because what do the Blue Jackets have to lose, I’d scratch Jared Boll and put Jordan Leopold in my defensive pairings, who by the way hasn’t seen the ice since December 13th. Who cares if you’re swapping out a winger for a defensemen. Maybe extra d-man will help? I don’t know.

Its the final meeting of the year between the two teams, and as long as we don’t have a repeat of the first game of the season, I’ll count it as a good night. The puck drops at 7:30.

For more insight from the Tampa Bay point of view tonight, go check out our pals at Bolts by the Bay.