Columbus Blue Jackets (7-15-2) at Florida Panthers (10-7-6)
|Date & Time||Thursday December 4, 2014, 7:30 PM (EST)|
The Line: Florida Panthers -130 / Columbus Blue Jackets +118 --- Over/Under: 5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
The Columbus Blue Jackets finally ended their six game losing streak on Monday night with a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers. On Thursday night the Blue Jackets will be in south Florida to take on the Panthers again and look to extend their streak to two. Boone Jenner's second goal of the season broke a 1-1 tie midway through the third period and Sergei Bobrovsky did the rest to pick up his sixth win of the season. Matt Calvert opened the scoring late in the third period with his third goal of the year. Aaron Ekblad tied the game for the Panthers early in the second period with a power play goal. Blue Jackets fans must have been shaking their heads when they saw Bobrovsky take a leg-on-leg hit while skating around in pregame warmups. The Columbus Blue Jackets have been so decimated by injuries to start this season and that has been the biggest factor in their struggles this year. Watching Bobrovsky take that shot pretty much sums up this season in a nutshell for this organization. The good news is that Bobrovsky wasn't injured and turned in a sparkling performance, stopping 24 of 25 shots in the game. It's going to take that type of effort from their goaltender if the Blue Jackets want to give themselves a chance at making a run at a playoff spot once they start to get some bodies back. This is a hockey club that really struggled to score goals last season and now this year when you add in all the injuries it just becomes too much to overcome. Snapping the losing streak was a good start and if this team can just find a way to keep themselves alive they should have a chance to compete when guys come back, but right now they just are overmatched on most nights. Mark Letestu was just ruled out for another six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair groin and abdominal injuries. Watching this team play down the stretch last year and into the post season we saw a hard working overachieving club. Right now they're still working hard but the results just haven't been there because of the lack of goal scoring. Playing a team like Florida should open up some more chances for them offensively but Columbus still managed just two goals in the victory on Monday night.
The Florida Panthers played a game in between these two contests with Columbus, and Tuesday night in Detroit they held on for an impressive win over the Red Wings. Roberto Luongo made 38 saves and helped the Panthers avoid blowing a 4-1 third period lead. Jimmy Hayes scored his sixth goal of the season late in the first period to even the score at 1-1 and Sean Bergenheim's fourth of the season came in the second period to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead. Vincent Trocheck struck quickly in the third, notching his second goal of the year just 27 seconds into the final frame to increase the lead for the visitors. Aaron Ekblad then added a goal before the Red Wings really turned on the jets. Detroit would score twice, including Gustav Nyquist's goal with just under a minute to play. The win was Florida's third in their last four games and puts them at 10-7-6 on the season. It isn't the most impressive record but for an organization like the Panthers it's important because they are starting to see some results on the ice and a lot of the contributions are coming from their young players and future of the tea. Ekblad has been everything this organization could have hoped for and at just 18 years old the sky is the limit for this kid. Having a veteran netminder like Luongo in goal has given them some credibility in the crease as well and that's important for a team to see a guy who comes to work every day and is used to winning hockey games. It will be a challenge for the Panthers to stay in the playoff race in a difficult Atlantic Division but right now the club just seven points out of third place with two games in hand on Detroit. There's still a lot of hockey left obviously but things are looking up in Florida for the first time in a while.
The Panthers didn't play their best game the other night in Columbus and with the way the Blue Jackets have been playing recently it's hard to see them stringing victories together. Florida is a slight home favorite in this one and I like their chances of getting some revenge from Monday night.