Another reunion awaits Blue Jackets in Florida

The Columbus Blue Jackets faced their former star winger, Artemi Panarin, on Thursday night.

On Saturday night in Sunrise, Fla., the Blue Jackets will confront their former star goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky, who now plays for the Florida Panthers.

The first reunion did not go well for Columbus, which lost 3-2 to the New York Rangers on Thursday. Panarin scored New York's third goal in that game, sending Columbus to its third straight loss.

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Columbus had 47 shots on goal to just 19 for the Rangers, yet still lost.

"It's not an effort thing," forward Nick Foligno told reporters of a possible reason for Columbus' four losses in its past five games. "I'm tired of hearing: 'We've got to score more.' We just have to bury our chances."

The Blue Jackets ran into a hot goalie in Alexandar Georgiev on Thursday (45 saves on 47 shots), and it remains to be seen how good Bobrovsky -- who signed a seven-year, $70-milliion contract with Florida in July -- will be on Saturday.

Bobrovsky is 9-6-4 this season with a 3.48 goals-against average and an .884 save percentage. He has yet to find his groove this season, losing two straight games and giving up at least two goals in nine straight.

Bobrovsky has the second-lowest save percentage in the NHL and, according to Corsica Hockey, the second-worst goals saved above average total while playing 5-on-5.

In need of a spark, perhaps this could be it. After seven seasons with Columbus, this will be Bobrovsky's first time facing the Blue Jackets.

The Panthers are coming off a 4-2 loss to the visiting Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. The Panthers, who started backup goalie Chris Driedger for the second straight game, squandered a 2-0 second-period lead.

"You get what you deserve," said Panthers coach Joel Quenneville, who was not happy with his team.

"It's one of those tough losses -- can't happen."

The saving grace for the Panthers is their offense, which is led by winger Jonathan Huberdeau (team-high 33 points) and All-Star center Aleksander Barkov (32 points, team-high 23 assists).

Winger Brett Connolly, who has been productive since signing with the Panthers in July, leads the team with 12 goals. Power-play quarterback/defenseman Keith Yandle has 12 of his 22 points with the man advantage, and wingers Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov have scored 10 goals each.

The Panthers are 1-1-0 so far on this franchise-record nine-game homestand. The Panthers are 7-4-2 at home this season.

Columbus, which is 3-5-3 on the road, is still without center Brandon Dubinsky (wrist injury) and a pair of top-six defensemen in Zach Werenski (shoulder) and Markus Nutivaara (upper body). Werenski is the biggest loss as he usually plays on the top Columbus pairing along with perennial Norris Trophy candidate Seth Jones.

Offensively, the Blue Jackets are led by wingers Pierre-Luc Dubois and free agent signee Gustav Nyquist, each with 18 points. Dubois also leads Columbus in goals (10). Winger Cam Atkinson leads Columbus in power-play goals with three.

Starting Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo is 11-10-1 with a 2.85 GAA and a .900 save percentage. His backup, rookie Elvis Merzlikins, has yet to win an NHL game (0-3-3, 3.34 GAA, .895 save percentage).

Merzlikins, 25, who has dominated at times in Switzerland and on the international stage, is said to have star potential. So far, though, it has been Korpisalo -- who was Bobrovsky's backup the past four seasons -- who has received most of Columbus' starts.

That expected matchup between Bobrovsky and Korpisalo could be yet another interesting storyline to follow on Saturday.

--Field Level Media

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