Struggling Jackets won’t blame injuries as Oilers await
Amid a string of injuries, the Columbus Blue Jackets are struggling to get goals and wins.
The Blue Jackets are 2-4-4 in their last 10 games, averaging 2.6 goals per game but allowing 3.6. They’re missing nine players due to injury, including top forwards Cam Atkinson (ankle) and Brandon Dubinsky (wrist), along with key defensemen Seth Jones (ankle) and Dean Kukan (knee).
Head coach John Tortorella quickly dismissed the notion that injuries are causing this recent slide. After all, the Blue Jackets started the new year on a 9-0-1 tear that ended Feb. 8 against the Colorado Avalanche.
“(Injuries have) nothing to do with it,” Tortorella said. “We’ve been doing this for three months and we’ve found a way to win games. We need to continue to stay with it. We need to get some guys that I think can bring more offense to do that more consistently without sacrificing some of the things we need to do above the puck.”
Since they lost 3-2 in overtime to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday, the Blue Jackets have been coalescing in the picturesque town of Banff, Alberta. They head to Edmonton on Saturday to face the Oilers and the league’s top two scorers, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.
The Blue Jackets held a 2-0 lead in the first 20 minutes Wednesday and hung on until the Flames found their spark — with only 10 minutes left in regulation time. On the bright side, Devin Shore scored his first goal with the Blue Jackets, brought in from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline to add scoring depth. Gustav Nyquist added the second Columbus goal, scoring for a second straight game.
“We need to sustain some offense,” Tortorella said. “We have the people that can do that. We’ve done it before. We found ways to win games. Are we going to be winning games 5-1? No, I don’t expect that, but we need to win these types of games.”
When the Blue Jackets hit the ice against the Oilers, they will face a team that’s averaging 3.16 goals on 29.6 shots per game.
And that’s a team starting a four-game homestand, where its record at Edmonton is 16-10-5.
But the Oilers are licking their wounds, too, following a 4-3 loss on Thursday to the host Chicago Blackhawks. Their sporadically explosive offense waited until it was already down 3-0 before getting started.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got the Oilers on the board in the second period, after the Blackhawks got goals from Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat. DeBrincat added his second of the night before the end of the second to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead.
Josh Archibald and Kailer Yamamoto scored within a 49-second span in the third period for the Oilers, but the tying goal proved elusive.
“If you let in four, you’ll have a tough time winning,” Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s the story of the night.”
The loss wrapped up a three-game road trip during which the Oilers got two wins.
Draisaitl, who had two assists against Chicago, said the Oilers didn’t match the desperation of the Blackhawks, who haven’t yet fallen out of contention for a wild card in the Western Conference playoffs.
“Every team at this time of year is desperate,” said Draisaitl, who leads his team with 43 goals and 110 points. “We’ve been in that situation. If you want to be a playoff team, you have to beat this team. We have to regroup and be better next game.”
–Field Level Media