Senators-Blue Jackets Preview


The Columbus Blue Jackets are trying to find some consistency, particularly in the second period.

Facing one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL could help.

The Blue Jackets may be in for some changes as they try to end a three-game slide and send the Ottawa Senators to a sixth straight defeat Tuesday night.

Columbus (5-8-0) has given up 36 goals on the season and has been outscored 16-8 in the second period, including 7-2 over the past four games.

Those struggles were evident during Pittsburgh's sweep of a home-and-home set over the weekend. The Blue Jackets gave up three goals in the middle stanza of Friday's 4-2 road loss before allowing another second-period tally in a 3-0 defeat a day later.

Coach Todd Richards is considering shuffling his lines to address the issue.

"We're trying different things and we have to try more things to get us ready and to wake us up," Richards told the team's official website. "I guarantee other teams are talking about it. A team starts well, finishes well, but that middle frame (is a) struggle. I would think that's something Ottawa will be talking about.

"It's getting ourselves ready to start the second period. We're ready to start the first, but we have to reset and re-focus. That's kind of the issue with our team right now is the consistency. I don't think we've played a full 60 yet."

Perhaps a meeting with the Senators (4-6-4) can provide a spark for Columbus, which lost a season-worst four straight games last month.

Thanks in large part to poor defensive play, Ottawa is on the brink of its longest slide since dropping seven in a row from Jan. 21-Feb. 7, 2012.

The Senators' 3.14 goals against per game is among the worst in the league, and they've given up an average of 4.00 during the five-game losing streak (0-3-2).

Ottawa's defensive issues were on display again Sunday, but the team found some solace in a 4-3 shootout loss versus Dallas.

"We can't keep doing this all season," said defenseman Erik Karlsson, who had one goal and one assist. "We got a point and we played better than we have in the past, so we have to take the positives out of things."

The Senators, though, are expected to be without goaltender Craig Anderson, who has a stiff neck after being hit in the head by the knee of the Stars' Valeri Nichushkin and departing during overtime. He made 33 saves before backup Robin Leher stopped two shots and turned aside one of two attempts in the tiebreaker.

Leher, slated to face Columbus for the first time, is 0-2-2 with a 2.73 goals-against average in five games, including three starts. He set a franchise record with 53 saves in his most recent start, but stopped only one of two shootout chances in a 5-4 loss to the New York Islanders on Friday.

Marian Gaborik leads the Blue Jackets with five goals, and he's netted four in seven home games. However, he hasn't found the net over his past three overall, and failed to muster a shot on goal Saturday.

The star right wing has no points and is a minus-5 over his last five meetings with Ottawa.