The top two teams in the Metropolitan Division will square off in a home-and-home set this week, beginning Tuesday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets host the New Jersey Devils. The Blue Jackets, who had won eight of nine prior to Saturday’s 4-3 loss in Washington, hold a one-point lead over surprising New Jersey atop the Metropolitan.
The top six teams in the division are separated by five points, including two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh and Washington, the Presidents’ Trophy winners the past two seasons. ”First place to wild card is only separated by three or four points,“ Columbus forward Cam Atkinson said Saturday. ”That’s how strong our division is. It’s always exciting playing those games.” New Jersey owned the NHL’s best road record before it was shellacked by Arizona 5-0 on Saturday after winning at Colorado 2-1 the previous night. The Devils have dropped their last three matchups against the Blue Jackets -- all in two-week span last March -- and were outscored 9-1 in that span.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG-Plus (New Jersey), FSN Ohio (Columbus)
ABOUT THE DEVILS (15-7-4): In the second game since trading Adam Henrique to Anaheim in exchange for defenseman Sami Vatanen, coach John Hynes juggled his lines Saturday, elevating Marcus Johansson to the top line to take Taylor Hall’s place on left wing. Hynes hinted at changes for Tuesday’s game and addressed the role of forward Pavel Zacha, a healthy scratch Saturday. “We kind of have the same discussion every day about Pav,” Hynes said. “It doesn’t change. There needs to be consistent compete and (a) tougher player to play against.”
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (17-9-1): Rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois collected two assists Saturday and continues to thrive on the team’s No. 1 line with Artemi Panarin and Josh Anderson, which accounted for half the team’s 24 scoring chances at Washington, according to coach John Tortorella. ”It’s working right now. They just feel it, and we’re hoping some of that rubs off on some of our other guys,” Tortorella said of his “French Bread” unit. Columbus sits atop the division despite a wretched power play that ranks last in the NHL (7 of 75).
1. Columbus has won five in a row at home.
2. Devils G Cory Schneider is 10-8-2 with a 2.26 goals-against average versus the Blue Jackets.
3. Columbus Ds Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara were not at practice Monday.
PREDICTION: Blue Jackets 3, Devils 1