To say things have been better for the Columbus Blue Jackets would be an understatement.
After a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday dropped them to 0-7-2 in their past nine games, the Blue Jackets return home to face the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, hoping to avoid a franchise-record 10th straight setback.
While the Blue Jackets will be on two days of rest for the first time since Nov. 8, they are the NHL’s coldest team, with issues throughout the roster.
Among the veteran players expected to lead the group, Patrik Laine has struggled for ice time under head coach Pascal Vincent and was a healthy scratch against Philadelphia. At the same time, a sputtering power play emphasizes further struggles throughout the roster.
Against the Flyers, the Jackets went 0-for-5 on the power play and sat at 9.8 percent on the season, the third worst in the NHL entering Tuesday.
“Right now I think Patty needs to take a deep breath, go back to the working lab and get his touches back, get his shot back, and get his confidence back so he can be the Patrik Laine we know all know he can be,” Vincent said ahead of pushing Laine out of the lineup.
Although returning home after a two-game road swing could buoy Columbus, they will need to shut down one of the league’s top young players, Connor Bedard, and a Blackhawks team that has shown signs of life despite losing four straight games.
Bedard in particular has grown into a leading role with the Blackhawks, topping their scoring charts with nine goals and 15 points, shining brightly even as the heavy attention of his NHL debut has subsided.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Blackhawks have continued many of the struggles that placed them among the NHL’s bottom teams last season, with struggles for consistency pushed on by defensive mishaps, lack of depth scoring and inability to score decisive late goals.
“We’re going into the third period a lot these days tied, and we don’t come out on top,” Chicago coach Luke Richardson said. “So, we’ve got to find a way to be on top of these for a change and just get some life and build off that.”
While two struggling teams may not be a headline game as Thanksgiving approaches, the matchup pits the top two picks from the latest NHL draft against one another as Bedard takes on Blue Jackets forward Adam Fantilli.
Yet, despite similar team results, adjusting to the NHL has been notably different for the two, with Bedard settling in with poise and excitement. Meanwhile, Fantilli has posted just four goals and nine points in 19 games.
As both teams look to avoid slipping further down the standings, Wednesday’s matchup stands as critical to halting skids as the one-third mark of the season approaches.
–Field Level Media