NHL Game Preview - Wild v Blue Jackets

 
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4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ET21:00 BRT, February 28, 2020
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio  Attendance: 18,955

Blue Jackets look to avenge loss to Wild

Minnesota Wild at Columbus Blue Jackets

  1. The Wild and Blue Jackets will face off for the second time in four days after Minnesota posted a 5-4 home win on Tuesday. The Wild are seeking their first three-game winning streak in the series since a four-game run from December 2007-November 2008 but are 2-4-0 in their last six trips to Columbus, having totaled just nine goals in those games.
  2. Minnesota has won a season-high four straight road games and improved to 3-0-0 away from home under interim coach Dean Evason with Thursday's 7-1 rout of Detroit. Evason is one of three coaches in 2019-20 to take over a team in-season and win his first three career road games, along with Toronto's Sheldon Keefe and Calgary's Geoff Ward.
  3. The Blue Jackets have lost nine of 10 games (1-4-5) following a 9-0-1 run from January 11 to February 7. Columbus has allowed 1.15 more goals per game in February (2.79) than January (1.64), the second-largest increase of any team (Hurricanes, +1.46).
  4. Thursday's win marked the fourth time in 2019-20 the Wild scored at least seven times in a game, the most in any season in franchise history. Minnesota hit the seven-goal mark in a game only twice over the course of the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
  5. Emil Bemstrom has a goal in three straight games after scoring just two over his previous 28 games. He'll attempt to join Matt Calvert (2010-11) as the only rookies in Blue Jackets history to record a four-game goal streak.
  6. Kevin Fiala had a goal and two assists on Thursday, and his 17 points (9g, 8a) since February 4 trail only the Rangers' Mika Zibanejad (19) and Calgary's Mikael Backlund for the most in the NHL. Fiala's 17 points this month are second-most in February by a Wild player in franchise history (Eric Staal, 21 in 2017-18).

It's been a relatively rough three-week stretch for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but they can end the month on a positive note by avenging their most recent defeat.

With No. 1 goalie Joonas Korpisalo possibly ready to make his first start of 2020, the Blue Jackets aim to keep the surging Minnesota Wild from a fifth consecutive road victory on Friday night.

Currently sitting in the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, Columbus is mired in a 1-4-5 stretch. That lone victory came 4-3 in overtime versus Ottawa on Monday, but the Blue Jackets were unable to build on it while losing 5-4 at Minnesota one night later. Columbus scored three third-period goals to nearly erase the Wild's 4-1 advantage, but left frustrated with the way things unfolded.

"It's a disappointing effort in a lot of guys (Tuesday) that normally are giving us the minutes," captain Nick Foligno, who has four goals with an assist in the last four games.

"I'm not trying to be negative -- I like the way we found ourselves -- but man, we're not in a position with the people we have in this room to be spotting teams leads and expect to win."

While the Blue Jackets have been hit hard by injuries, including to star defenseman Seth Jones, they need to improve defensively after yielding 32 goals over the last eight games. It doesn't help that goalie Elvis Merzlikins (12-9-7, 2.44 goals-against average as a starter) exited Monday following a collision with Ottawa's Anthony Duclair.

However, Korpisalo, the team's No. 1 netminder with 17 wins and a 2.49 goals-against average as a starter, could be set to make his first start since Dec. 29. Korpisalo missed 24 games with a torn meniscus before stopping 14 of 15 shots in relief on Monday. Rookie Matiss Kivlenieks saved 35 shots at Minnesota this week.

The Wild, three points out of the final wild-card spot in the crowded West, kept the offense coming during a 7-1 road rout over lowly Detroit on Thursday. It was the fourth win in five games for Minnesota, which is amid an 8-3-1 stretch.

"This is fun when we're all going like this," Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, who had two goals with an assist Thursday, told KFAN-FM 100.3. "Winning is fun. Guys don't like to lose, especially with this race in the West. We've got to win every game we can.

"We know we've got to be sharp (Friday). (Columbus) is a team that is going to be hungry and looking for a little revenge."

Alex Stalock made 25 saves against the Red Wings to post his third consecutive victory. He stopped 24 shots versus Columbus this week, but Devan Dubnyk could get the start for the Wild in this back-to-back scenario. Dubnyk has yielded at least three goals in three straight starts.

Mikko Koivu has just four goals on the season for Minnesota, but two came against Columbus on Tuesday, and he recorded two assists Thursday. Ryan Donato, meanwhile, has two goals and two assists in the last two games, and Matt Fiala has recorded nine goals and eight assists over his last 12 contests.

Columbus' Pierre-Luc Dubois, two shy of a third straight 20-goal season, has one goal and three assists in his last four contests versus Minnesota.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 28, 2020

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