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BLUE JACKETS (26-21-4) at HURRICANES (23-19-9)
TV: FS-O, FS-CR
Last 10: Columbus 8-2-0; Carolina 7-3-0
Season series: The Columbus Blue Jackets will look for their eighth straight win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. When these new Metropolitan Division rivals last met on Jan. 10, Sergei Bobrovsky pitched a 36-save shutout and Columbus prevailed, 3-0, at Nationwide Arena.
Big story: Seven Eastern Conference teams fighting for a playoff berth are separated by only three points in the standings. Two of those, Columbus (8th place, 56 points) and Carolina (10th place, 55 points) face off Monday.
The Hurricanes have won three straight behind strong play from goaltender Anton Khudobin, and will look to continue moving up the standings. The Blue Jackets had a franchise-best eight-game winning streak snapped by the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
Blue Jackets: Brobrovsky may not control the fate of his Blue Jackets, but the reigning Vezina Trophy winner is no doubt a key component.
Bobrovsky carried a nine-game winning streak into the game versus Buffalo on Saturday, including all eight games of Columbus’s record-setting streak. Against the NHL-worst Sabres, however, Bobrovsky conceded three goals on 10 shots in 23:28 before being pulled, and Buffalo skated to a 5-2 win.
"We're so used to seeing him play at such a high level and he really has for just about this whole month, the games that he's been a part of," coach Todd Richards said. "And you don't expect those pucks to go in."
Hurricanes: Carolina coach Kirk Muller said his team needs to be prepared for a “hard game” against the Blue Jackets, who have had the Hurricanes’ number of late.
"They've stolen some points from us, they've all been tight games," said Muller. “They're a big team, they work hard, they grind you down. We've just gotta be ready for that kind of hard game."
Carolina is playing its most consistent hockey of the season, with production coming from all phases.
Top forwards Eric Staal and Alexander Semin have combined for eight goals and seven assists over the past five games. Khudobin is 8-3-0 over his past 11 starts, including a three-game winning streak. And on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, another Eastern team jostling for playoff position, less offensive forwards Manny Malhotra and Nathan Gerbe combined for six points in a 6-3 win.
"For us to be successful continuously, we have to get effort from all four lines," Malhotra said. "Not only offensively, but defensively we're expecting a lot out of each other. It's nice when we can contribute like that."
Who's hot: The Blue Jackets' physical presence will give them an edge against the less confrontational Hurricanes. Columbus averages 30.2 hits per game, one of the League' best marks. … Semin has eight points (six goals, two assists) over a five-game point streak. The Russian had a goal and an assist in the Carolina's first game this season against Columbus.
Injury report: Columbus forward Blake Comeau (knee) was activated from injured reserve Sunday. Defenseman David Savard (illness) is day-to-day, and wingers Marian Gaborik (clavicle) and Jared Boll (ankle) are on injured reserve. … For Carolina, goalie Cam Ward (lower body) has been on injured reserve since Jan. 7 but is listed as day-to-day. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen (heel) is out indefinitely.