The Columbus Blue Jackets are in that mode often associated with the New York Islanders in recent seasons: Long expected to see their accumulating young talent pay off in a real playoff run, through 25 games it looks like this could be the year.
They were in third place in the Metro before today’s games began, though Philadelphia’s comeback home win over the Stars bumped Columbus back into wild card territory.
But that underlines just what a hole the Islanders have dug for themselves: Five Metropolitan Division teams already have 35 points or more. And the Islanders, even after their current 5-0-1 run bumped them up to 27 points, are behind the other two teams (New Jersey, 30, and Carolina, 28) too.
The Blue Jackets have the second-best goal differential in the division and the league at +27. Their special teams are clicking — the power play is top of the league — they haven’t faced the catastrophic injuries that accelerated descent in past seasons, and John Tortorella is a functioning coach again in his latest evolution.
Even during games where they’ve been clearly outplayed, a healthy Sergei Bobrovsky has given them what they needed in goal. They are riding a combo of good play, unified effort, decent if not spectacular possession numbers, good goaltending and that extra edge that characterizes Tortorella’s teams when things are going right.
The flu bug is apparently still a concern for the Islanders, so the lineup was TBD at the morning skate. Ryan Strome, who missed the last game with illness, was apparently feeling better.
Jack Capuano said he didn’t want to change the defense though — it’s the six first-choice regulars at this point — and that Jaroslav Halak would be back in goal.
For the Blue Jackets, Bobrovsky will be in goal, but captain and spark plug Nick Foligno is reportedly out.
How to Watch
TV is MSG+, with radio on 970AM - The Answer, 88.7FM - WRHU, 103.9FM - LI News.
Check Blue Jackets coverage with our friends at The Cannon, where they’ve gone from despair in recent seasons to relief through the first quarter of 2016-17.
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks here by game time, which is 7 p.m. EST.