Mired in their longest winless stretch of the season, the Columbus Blue Jackets look to get back on track during a weekend that may be favorable for them.
The Blue Jackets are 4-0-0 against Eastern Conference opponents, and they’ll try to end a three-game winless run when they travel to face the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
One of the league’s biggest surprises, Columbus (14-8-1) fell to 0-2-1 in its last three games following Wednesday’s 4-3 shootout loss to Nashville. The Blue Jackets blew a 3-2 lead in the third period.
“We’ve been pretty good this year when we’ve gotten leads late in games,” coach Scott Arniel said. “This one shouldn’t have happened.”
Columbus has won every game against a team from the East this season and will host Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Blue Jackets, 8-2-0 on the road, have won four straight over Buffalo (9-13-3) to lead the all-time series 7-2-0 with one tie.
“We’ll get a scouting report on them, we’ll do video and we’ll regroup,” center R.J. Umberger(notes) said. “It’s going to be more about us, how we play on the road, what we’ve been doing all year. We simplify, we have puck possession and we like to play in their zone.”
The Sabres may have an edge due to their familiarity with Arniel, who served as an assistant under Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff from 2002-06 before taking over as the head coach for Manitoba of the AHL. Ruff is not surprised by the first-year coach’s success.
“He didn’t want to stay (in Buffalo) and become a career assistant coach,” Ruff told the Sabres’ official website. “He wanted to move on and keep his career moving. I would see him at coaches’ clinics when he was still playing, and that’s a pretty strong indication that somebody wants to spend some time in the coaching world.”
Buffalo is searching for offense after totaling five goals in losing three of four. The Sabres expect a boost with the return of right wing Drew Stafford(notes), who has missed the last 11 games with an upper-body injury.
“I’m definitely excited to see if we have some chemistry and see if we can spark the offense a little bit,” Stafford said.
Mason has started every game of this winless stretch, posting a 2.61 GAA. He still appears to be more likely to start Friday since backup Mathieu Garon(notes) is 0-5-0 with a 3.82 GAA in five starts against the Sabres.