NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, March 23rd (All times Eastern)
Columbus Blue Jackets (36-28-6) at New York Islanders (26-35-9), 1 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets will try to rebound from their second loss in three games, as they aim to get their playoff push back on track in Sunday's road test against the New York Islanders.
Columbus enters Sunday with 78 points, leaving them one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Detroit and Washington are tied for the East's second wild card berth with 79 points, but the Red Wings hold the current tiebreaker due to having played two less games than the Capitals.
Detroit is in action today against Minnesota while the Caps are off until Tuesday.
The Blue Jackets were tied with the New York Rangers for third place in the Metropolitan Division heading into Friday's showdown versus the Blueshirts.
However, the Rangers claimed a 3-1 decision in the important battle for playoff positioning to grab a two-point lead over Columbus for the last of the division's three automatic bids to the postseason. The Rangers have since pushed that lead to four points after Saturday's win over New Jersey.
Nick Foligno scored the lone goal in Friday's setback, while Sergei Bobrovsky turned away 29 shots in the Blue Jackets' third loss in five games.
"Obviously, disappointed by the result. I thought our guys, under very tough circumstances, played a hard game," said Columbus head coach Todd Richards. "I thought they were physical, they stood up for each other. It wasn't easy. We were right in it all the way to the end."
The game marked Rick Nash's return to Columbus, as the star winger visited Nationwide Arena for the first time since being dealt to the Rangers nearly two years ago. Nash didn't register a point, but he fired seven shots on goal and also was involved in a memorable scrap with Bobrovsky.
Already showered with boos, Nash, who was selected first overall by Columbus in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, stoked the fans' ire even more late in the second period. The former face of the Blue Jackets drove hard to the crease and the puck went into the net after a collision with Bobrovsky at 17:06. The referee immediately waved off the goal, ruling Nash made incidental contact with the Columbus goalie.
Nash then got to his feet and incited a melee by punching Bobrovsky. Seeking retribution for him going after Bobrovsky, Matt Calvert engaged in fisticuffs with Nash at the start of the third period.
The Blue Jackets enter Sunday having won three straight on the road and the club is 17-15-3 as the visiting team this season.
Columbus has won four straight against the Islanders, including the first two of four encounters in 2013-14. The Metro Division rivals will complete their season series on April 6 in Columbus.
The Jackets also have won two straight on Long Island, although both of those victories came after regulation.
The Islanders are 18 points out of a playoff spot in the East and are playing out the string. New York is just 3-5-1 this month and has lost four of its last six games.
New York hasn't played since Tuesday when Matt Moulson and the visiting Minnesota Wild posted a 6-0 rout at Nassau Coliseum. Moulson scored two goals and added an assist against his former team.
Anders Nilsson gave up all six goals on 22 shots for the Islanders, who lost defenseman Brian Strait to a broken left hand in the second period. Strait will be sidelined indefinitely.
"Nothing is going to come easy for us," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "We had some pretty good chances. It just seemed like when we gave them a chance, with the skill that they have, it was in the back of our net."
The Islanders also could be without leading scorer Kyle Okposo, fellow forward Michael Grabner and defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky on Sunday. Okposo, who leads New York with 69 points, is dealing with a lower-body injury, while Visnovsky is hampered by an upper-body issue. Both players are questionable for Sunday, while, Grabner expects to miss a fourth straight game with a concussion.
Of course, New York is also without star centerman John Tavares for the remainder of the season after he tore his knee playing for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics.
"It takes me longer to read the injury report than is has at any other point since I've been here," Capuano said of his hobbled club. "I haven't seen anything like this in a while."
The Isles are just 10-18-8 at the Coliseum this season and are completing a four-game homestand this afternoon.
03/23 10:35:21 ET