KINGS (11-19-2) at BLUE JACKETS (16-12-2)
Thursday, 7 p.m., Nationwide Arena (Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports app, 97.1 The Fan) – BUY TICKETS
The storyline was written as soon as Oliver Bjorkstrand took a drop pass from Scott Harrington, curled into the high slot, and ripped a laser of a shot past Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom on Tuesday night.
The snipe gave Columbus a 2-1 lead and snapped a month-long goal-less streak for the Blue Jackets’ winger, and both the team and Bjorkstrand were primed for sweet redemption.
“I thought we were going to get over that tipping point when (Bjorkstrand) scores,” head coach John Tortorella said. “We’re alive (on the bench), eight or nine minutes left to play. I thought it was set up really nice for us.”
Of course, the comeback story didn’t make it all the way until the final buzzer. One deflected goal by Elias Pettersson and a sharp-angle winner from Jake Virtanen later and the Canucks escaped Nationwide Arena with a 3-2 win that sent Columbus to its second straight loss to begin a six-game homestand.
The next chance for redemption comes Thursday against a banged-up Los Angeles Kings team, which makes its lone visit to Columbus for the clash.
“That’s the rub now is we play the right way but we didn’t get a result,” Tortorella said after a game in which the Blue Jackets held a 23-11 advantage in scoring chances as tracked by the team. “Can we stay with our concentration here and stay with the things we have to do?
“Because we made some great corrections in our game to get it back to how we should be playing, but we didn’t get the result. We have to be able to do it tomorrow night and keep on working at that part of it, and hopefully the results start coming our way.”
For Bjorkstrand, the aim will be to keep the good vibes rolling. It’s no secret it’s been a trying season for the 23-year-old winger from Denmark, who had been a healthy scratch four times since his last goal Nov. 9 – and had just two assists in the nine games he did play in the meantime.
The relief was clear on Bjorkstrand’s face after Tuesday’s third-period goal, as he pumped his fist, skated to the corner, and sported a huge grin as teammates skated over in celebration.
“It’s nice,” he said of his third tally of the season. “Obviously it’s been a little bit of a struggle this season, points-wise and so on. There’s been times where I’ve had some good chances and they just haven’t gone in. Seeing the puck go in, if you have 10, 20 goals or whatever, it’s always nice. It gives you a boost. And I only have a few, so it helps you out.”
He might get more of a chance to shine Thursday vs. Los Angeles. Josh Anderson is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury, and the big-bodied winger did not practice Wednesday after leaving the Canucks game when he went into the goal post head-first while driving toward the net.
Bjorkstrand moved up to take Anderson’s spot on what has been an impactful line with Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno, and Tortorella said he will be back there Thursday if Anderson cannot play.
“He scores a goal that hopefully will help his confidence,” Tortorella said. “He changes angles with shots. He’s a deceptive shooter. He’s a goal scorer. But a goal scorer also has to do some work, too. … You can see there’s a little desperation in his game because he wants to stay in the lineup, so this (defensive effort) should be an everyday thing.”
Bobrovsky back in
With the Jackets hoping to bounce back from Saturday’s 4-0 home loss to Washington, Tortorella started Joonas Korpisalo in net Tuesday rather than Sergei Bobrovsky.
There were a multitude of factors that went into the decision, as well as the one that Bobrovsky will get the start vs. the Kings.
“The situation with Korpi last night was Korpi was going to play one of the games, either (Tuesday) or the next game tomorrow night,” Tortorella said Wednesday. “I liked his two periods (vs. Washington) when he came in for Bob. … Korpi came in and played really well, so that’s what made me decide he’s going to play this one (vs. Vancouver).
“And also Bob always likes a little bit of – he’s still trying to find his game too, and he needs those work days without a game because you can’t properly work at your game if you’re always playing games. It really gave us a nice little window for him to get some work with (goaltending coach Manny Legace), give Korpi the start, and then Bob goes tomorrow. I think it sets up Bob to play some here. He’s going to play some now.”
The Los Angeles team that visits Nationwide on Thursday has been hurting.
That’s true in the standings, where the Kings bring up the rear in the Pacific Division with 24 points in 32 games. Los Angeles lost Monday at Detroit and also fell in overtime Tuesday at Buffalo, part of a stretch of four losses of the last five games.
One big reason? Injuries, where the bad news keeps piling up for the Kings. Defensemen Dion Phaneuf and Drew Doughty both left Tuesday’s game with Buffalo, with Phaneuf being flown back to Los Angeles for reevaluation. Doughty was listed as day-to-day after the game.
Los Angeles already had a lengthy injury list going into the game, with forwards Jonny Brodzinski, Carl Hagelin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Trevor Lewis on injured reserve along with goaltender Jack Campbell. Defenseman Alec Martinez and forward Kyle Clifford also missed the opening games of the road trip for L.A., and Martinez joined the IR list on Wednesday.
Talking about practice
Columbus spent most of its Wednesday practice working on the power play and penalty kill. Neither got much work on Tuesday as the Jackets were 0-for-2 on the power play and killed the only penalty they took.
Blue Jackets projected lineup
Artemi Panarin — Pierre-Luc Dubois — Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno — Boone Jenner — Oliver Bjorkstrand
Lukas Sedlak — Alexander Wennberg — Anthony Duclair
Markus Hannikainen — Brandon Dubinsky — Riley Nash
Ryan Murray — Seth Jones
Markus Nutivaara — David Savard
Zach Werenski — Scott Harrington
Scratched: Josh Anderson (upper body; day-to-day)