The Jackets will play their fourth game in six nights tonight at Nationwide, as they host the Metropolitan Division leading Carolina Hurricanes.
Having lost two games in a row, the Jackets will look to bounce back against a tough Canes team – who are mired in a four game losing streak of their own. It’s not an impossible task: the Jackets beat the Canes 4-3 in a shootout last Saturday; but this is a tough matchup for a Columbus team that is still without several regulars.
One look at the standings will tell you that there’s a huge gap in quality between these two teams. While the Canes have lost four in a row, they’ve lost just 16 times overall this season – only 9 in regulation. Their 25-9-7 (57pts) record is good enough for third in the entire league at the mid-way mark. They are a serious contender for the Stanley Cup this year.
The Jackets, as we know, are not. In fact, one might say they’re the anti-Carolina. Their 12-26-2 record (26 points) is good for 31st in the NHL, with the third-worst goal differential in the league. They will be without at least 9 regulars from the lineup tonight, and will be icing the least experienced defense corps in the league.
But it’s the NHL, and as we have seen plenty of times: anything can happen. This is why they actually play the games, as we learned on Saturday night when these same two teams faced off. You never know when Kirill Marchenko is going to go off and score a hat trick, or perhaps a goalie stands on their head and steals a game.
Joonas Korpisalo will start in goal for Columbus, whose projected lineup should look something like this:
The Canes are relatively healthy, but are still looking to find a lineup that works now that they’ve added Max Pacioretty to the mix. Led up front by Pacioretty, Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Martin Necas; they have just enough scoring to win games on the back of a stingy defense and solid goaltending.
Jackets/Canes by the numbers:
Matchup scoring leaders: Martin Necas 3pts (1g, 2a), Max Pacioretty 2g; Kirill Marchenko 3pts (3g); Cole Sillinger 2a
Likely starters (subject to change): Joonas Korpisalo, Pyotr Kochetkov
Notes: Kirill Marchenko has four goals in his last three games, and 9 goals in the last 14 games, without adding an assist. In 10 games without Boone Jenner, Johnny Gaudreau has just 1 goal and 4 assists, along with a -5 rating. In his last four starts, Joonas Korpisalo has a 2-2-0 record with a .935 save percentage and 2.25 goals against average.