If the Columbus Blue Jackets want to show the NHL that they are deserving of a spot in the postseason, they won't get a better opportunity than Monday night.
On the lightest of nights in the league, Columbus will look to snap an eight-game winless streak (0-3-5) when it hosts the Ottawa Senators.Three major factors exist for the Blue Jackets: Monday night's contest is the only game on the NHL schedule, it's at home and, well, it's Ottawa.
The Blue Jackets reside just outside of a wild-card spot, trailing the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes in a glut of Metropolitan teams trying to secure a berth behind the division's top three sides -- the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers.
Columbus can gain ground in the standings on Monday, although it will be its 64th game -- which is multiple games more than both the Islanders and Hurricanes.
In the previous meeting with Ottawa on Dec. 14, Columbus let a point slip away as Anthony Duclair recorded a power-play goal in overtime to complete a hat trick and defeat his former club.
During their current swoon, the Blue Jackets have fallen five times after regulation -- to Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Philadelphia in overtime and New Jersey and Nashville in the shootout.
However, Columbus coach John Tortorella hasn't wavered in his support for his squad or the results.
"I know I keep getting asked the question, 'How about the mindset of the team? Are they going to get down?' This team won't get down," Tortorella said. "That's one thing I fully trust is they're together and they'll keep on playing and try to find a way."
Behind 2-0 after one period in Nashville on Saturday, the Blue Jackets clawed back with goals from Boone Jenner, Eric Robinson and Emil Bemstrom before Colton Sissons answered for the Predators. Nashville's Rocco Grimaldi clinched the win by beating rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikins in the shootout's eighth round for another loss.
Help is on the way for the Blue Jackets, who activated goaltender Joonas Korpisalo from injured reserve on Sunday.
Korpisalo missed 24 games after suffering a knee injury in a Dec. 29 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. He had surgery to repair a torn meniscus the following day, and at the time, the Blue Jackets said he'd miss four to six weeks.
Before the injury, the 25-year-old was en route to his best-ever season. He already has set career bests in starts (31), wins (17) and goals-against average (2.49). He's 17-10-4 on the season with two shutouts.
The Senators, who dropped a 1-0 decision in the first meeting on Nov. 25 in Columbus, were also blanked in their last outing. Montreal goalie Carey Price provided the honors with a 30-save effort in a 3-0 win.
The loss dropped Ottawa to 3-7-2 in its last 12 games.
Senators left wing Brady Tkachuk had a busy night, racking up 19 penalty minutes before finally receiving a game misconduct with 2:08 left in the match.
Tkachuk fought Brendan Gallagher after the Montreal forward's hard check of Ottawa's Thomas Chabot sent the defenseman to the dressing room. Chabot only played 4:22 of the first period and was ruled out with a lower-body injury.
"It stinks. Early in the game there we lose our best puck-moving defenseman," Senators goalie Craig Anderson said. "So it's unfortunate, but we'll have to wait and see what the situation is with him. It's a guy that plays a lot of minutes for us and we definitely missed him."
--Field Level Media