Blue Jackets at Sabres
The Columbus Blue Jackets are battling for first place in the Metropolitan Division while the Buffalo Sabres are buried in the basement of the Atlantic, so it’s hardly surprising both head coaches have divergent viewpoints of their respective teams. Columbus goes for its third straight victory when it visits the skidding Sabres on Thursday night.
The Blue Jackets responded to a three-game slide by winning three of four, rallying from a two-goal deficit in the final five minutes to post a 3-2 overtime victory at Toronto on Monday. “That’s a good win for us as far as going through some of the crap we’ve been going through,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “I really respect how they kept their head up and kept on playing.” Conversely, Buffalo was pierced for a season-worst seven goals by visiting Winnipeg on Tuesday to suffer its fifth straight defeat (0-4-1) and draw the ire of first-year coach Phil Housley. “There’s a lot of cheat in our game,” Housley said of his players after the 7-4 loss to the Jets. “They think that points are more important than playing solid defense, and you can see the results that are coming.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet, FS Ohio (Columbus), MSG-Buffalo
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (25-16-3): After collecting one goal and one assist in a 14-game span, captain Nick Foligno has scored in back-to-back games to provide a much-needed spark to an injury-depleted lineup. The Blue Jackets will get a boost with the return of center Alexander Wennberg, who was activated off injured reserve after sitting out the past eight games. Sergei Bobrovsky is 10-3-1 versus the Sabres, including winning both starts this season.
ABOUT THE SABRES (10-24-9): Robin Lehner, who was pulled in Tuesday’s loss, has allowed at least three goals for the fifth time in six games. “We’ve got to take strides,” Lehner said. “We’ve got to do things better as a team here. I’ll look at myself in the mirror first. … “It’s very frustrating. It must be very frustrating for the fans of Buffalo.” Jack Eichel scored twice Tuesday and has 15 points and four multiple-goal games over the past 11 contests.
1. Eichel, named to the All-Star team Wednesday, has two goals and seven points in eight games versus Columbus.
2. Blue Jackets D Seth Jones was named to the All-Star team.
3. Buffalo has killed off only 11 of 19 penalties over the past six games.