Blue Jackets hope to end their latest struggles against Sharks

By Thomson Reuters Feb 16, 2024 | 11:52 PM

The Columbus Blue Jackets will look to avoid a third straight loss when they continue a four-game road trip in San Jose against the Sharks on Saturday.

It will be the Blue Jackets’ first game since firing general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on Thursday.

Columbus, last in the Metropolitan Division, has dropped two games since returning from the All-Star break, including a 6-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

“You hear about it a lot, but any team that’s won or any winning teams that have that culture have been through tough times,” said Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner. “Right now, we’re in that process. Some days, we’re not where we need to be at. It’s finding the energy to dig deep in those circumstances. At the end of the day, it’s going to help us grow as a group.”

Jenner has three tallies in his last two games and is the team leader with 16 goals in 37 games this season. Forward Johnny Gaudreau, who has a team-high 35 points in 52 games, has six helpers in his last five.

Forward Yegor Chinakhov (upper body) missed his first game on Tuesday after suffering the injury in last Saturday’s loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Defenseman Ivan Provorov missed Thursday’s practice after blocking a shot in Ottawa.

Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins is 9-11-7 with a 3.21 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage in 29 games this season. Merzlikins dressed as the backup on Tuesday in Ottawa but was under the weather.

Columbus is 3-6-1 over its past 10 games and 7-12-6 on the road this season.

Saturday is the first of two meetings between the Blue Jackets and Sharks.

San Jose enters the contest following Thursday’s 6-3 win over the Calgary Flames.

Forward Filip Zadina had a career-high four points for the Sharks, who have won five of their last eight games and improved to 5-3-2 in their previous 10 games.

“It felt pretty good, obviously,” said Zadina, who had two goals and two assists. “We haven’t scored as a line in a little bit, but we got rewarded for the work we’ve done recently.”

San Jose, last in the Pacific Division, is 9-13-2 on home ice this season.

Tomas Hertl leads the Sharks with 15 goals and 34 points in 48 games this season. Forward William Eklund has six assists over his past five games, and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic has three goals over his last five.

Netminder Mackenzie Blackwood — 9-17-3 with a 3.49 GAA and a .899 save percentage this season — is 5-1-1 with a 2.25 GAA and a .931 save percentage in his past seven starts.

Blackwood credited Sharks goaltending coach Thomas Speer for his recent success.

“It’s been great. He’s believed in me since Day 1, really helped me refine my game,” said Blackwood. “Things were a little bit rough there with me coming in off some injuries and having trouble finding my game, but this year has been great, he’s helped me a lot and I’m just feeling pretty good and I like where my game is headed.”

The Blue Jackets and Sharks wrap up the season series in Columbus on March 16.

–Field Level Media