The Columbus Blue Jackets (10-6-2) and Florida Panthers (7-5-3) face off at Nationwide Arena tonight in a game featuring two teams that are starting to hit their stride. The puck is scheduled to drop shortly after 7:00 PM ET.
The CBJ enter this matchup against the Panthers still sitting atop the Metropolitan Division with a five game point streak and points in eight of their last ten contests. At home, however, things haven’t been quite so easy. Despite holding a 6-2-1 record on the road, the Jackets are hanging on at .500, 4-4-1, at Nationwide Arena.
The Panthers come into tonight’s game as arguably the hottest team in the National Hockey League, winning their last five games after losing eight of their first ten this season.
These two teams have met once already this year during the first week of the campaign in Florida’s home opener. It was the Blue Jackets that were victorious on that evening, but these Panthers are a different team now.
After getting injured in Florida’s season opener, goaltender Roberto Luongo has gone 4-0-0 since he returned five games ago at the beginning of the team’s winning streak.
On the other side of the rink will likely be Sergei Bobrovsky, who’s started to be the dominant Bob CBJ fans remember. He’s allowed just one goal in five of his last six starts, including each of his last three.
Bobrovsky is going to go up against a couple of Panthers wingers who will certainly challenge his recent hot stretch, however. Evgenii Dadonov, who had a goal and two assists in their early season matchup against the Jackets, has been held off the scoresheet only twice this year, registering a point in each of his last 12 games.
Not to be outdone, Mike Hoffman, despite being held scoreless against the CBJ, has tallied a goal or an assist in each of the Panthers 13 games since the Jackets game.
The Panthers aren’t the only side that have players that can rack up the points. The Blue Jackets, who didn’t have a single 30-goal scorer last season, have four players on a 30+ goal pace this year. Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Anthony Duclair, and Josh Anderson all find themselves on that list, each of which are on track for career highs in that category.
One player for the CBJ who hasn’t been able to find the back of the net recently is Artemi Panarin. Although he’s gone eight straight games without a goal, his linemates, Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois, have scored a combined four goals in the last two games.
There are a number of storylines to watch tonight in this game. Both sides have hot goaltenders, both teams have the ability to run up the score, the CBJ power play has been on a roll, and the Panthers have been surging in November. There’s something for everyone in this matchup, so for an early-season weeknight contest, tonight’s game should be a fun one to watch.