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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, April 11th (All times Eastern)
Columbus Blue Jackets (42-31-7) at Tampa Bay Lightning (44-27-9), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Fresh off clinching the second postseason berth in franchise history, the Columbus Blue Jackets will try to improve their playoff position when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.
The Blue Jackets entered the league as an expansion club for the 2000-01 season, but didn't make their first postseason appearance until 2009 when they were swept in the first round by Detroit. It took five years to get back to the playoffs, but Columbus made it official with a win Wednesday in Dallas.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 33 shots -- including 17 in the third period -- as the Blue Jackets locked up a playoff spot thanks to a 3-1 victory over the Stars in the replay of a suspended game from American Airlines Center.
"It's a huge step for our organization. And to me, it's just a step. But we're ready to take the next one," said Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards, whose club also set a new team record with a 42nd win this season.
The original matchup, begun on March 10, was ended after almost 6 1/2 minutes elapsed in the first period when Stars forward Rich Peverley suffered a cardiac episode on the bench.
Wednesday's game was replayed from the start, but the visitors were allowed to keep their 1-0 lead, thanks to a Nathan Horton goal. Horton, however, didn't play Wednesday due to a lower-body injury and he expects to sit out again tonight.
Once play resumed, Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu lit the lamp for the Blue Jackets, who have won three in a row and can still catch Philadelphia for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Columbus is tied with the Flyers in points at 91, but Philly owns the current tiebreaker thanks to owning one more non-shootout victory. Like Columbus, the Flyers have two games left in the regular season, but Philadelphia is idle on Friday.
The Blue Jackets also are tied with Detroit for the first wild card spot in the East. Detroit is playing Friday against visiting Carolina before capping its regular season Sunday in St. Louis. Columbus cannot catch the Red Wings in non-shootout wins.
Wednesday's game kicked off a three-game road trip that will complete Columbus' regular-season schedule. The club is 20-16-3 as the visiting team and will finish the campaign Saturday against the Florida Panthers.
Tampa Bay also has qualified for the playoffs and will play the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round. However, home-ice advantage for that best-of- seven series is still up in the air, but the Lightning control their own destiny in the race for second place in the Atlantic Division.
Montreal lost in regulation to the visiting New York Islanders on Thursday and is only one point ahead of the Lightning for second place with one game left on its schedule. If Tampa can win its final two games of the regular season it will open the first-round series versus the Habs on home ice.
Columbus is 2-0 against the Lightning this season after entering 2013-14 on a three-game slide in this series. However, Tampa is 6-1-0 in the seven all-time meetings in Central Florida.
04/11 10:44:27 ET