On Tuesday night, the Blue Jackets look for a second straight victory over another of the NHL’s top teams while trying to extend the Bruins’ season-high road losing streak to four games.
Hoping to secure the first playoff berth in franchise history, Columbus (33-27-6) won 8-2 at Central Division-leading Detroit on Saturday. The Blue Jackets, who have alternated wins and losses in their last five games, are sixth in the West, where six points separate fifth from ninth place.
“We needed this win to stay in the race and determine our own fate,” said Columbus captain Rick Nash, who recorded his fourth career hat trick.
Columbus faces a brutal week starting with Eastern Conference-leading Boston (43-15-9), followed by a visit from Pittsburgh on Thursday, a trip to Chicago on Friday and a home rematch with the Red Wings on Sunday.
At 21-9-4, the Bruins have the NHL’s best road record and are 2-0-2 at Columbus. Boston, which won 2-0 at home on Dec. 15, 2007, in the teams’ most recent meeting, lost 5-4 in overtime on Dec. 26, 2006 in its last visit to Columbus.
Despite its success at Columbus and solid road play for most of the season, Boston looks to avoid losing four straight road games in regulation for the first time since dropping seven in a row from Dec. 30, 2006-Jan. 30, 2007.
The Bruins’ latest setback came 4-3 against the New York Rangers on Sunday— their fourth loss in five games.
“Good teams will find ways to correct this, and we’re a good team,” Boston defenseman Aaron Ward said of the Bruins, who’s last three road losses have been decided by a combined four goals. “We’ve shown ourselves to be capable for the first few months. We haven’t lost it, we’ve just gotten away from it.”
After Manny Fernandez suffered his fifth consecutive loss Sunday, Tim Thomas should be back in goal. Thomas is 28-9-6 with a 2.08 goals-against average and made 37 saves in the Bruins last trip to Columbus.
Ryder, who recorded his first point in five games, has two goals and an assist in three against Columbus.
The Blue Jackets set franchise records for most goals and margin of victory against Detroit. R.J. Umberger added two goals with an assist for Columbus, which has won five of its last seven at home.
Nash continues to lead the Blue Jackets’ push to the playoffs, scoring five goals in his last four games. The sixth-year pro has 31 goals and 33 assists to leave him five shy of matching his career high for points set in 2007-08.
“He’s doing what most captains do this time of the year,” Blue Jackets’ coach Ken Hitchcock said of Nash, who has just one assist in four games versus Boston. “He’s trying to help his team get into the playoffs.”
Rookie Steve Mason made 44 saves Saturday and is 26-16-3 with a 2.24 GAA.