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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, February 1st (All times Eastern)

Florida Panthers (21-26-7) at Columbus Blue Jackets (27-23-4), 7 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets will try to close a three-game homestand with a second straight win when they host the Florida Panthers in Saturday's battle at Nationwide Arena.

All told, the Blue Jackets has a stout 10-4-0 record in January. However, after winning a club-record eight consecutive games from Jan. 6-23, Columbus was mired in an 0-3-0 slide before snapping the skid Thursday against Washington.

The Blue Jackets began a three-game homestand with Tuesday's 3-2 loss against Ottawa, but Columbus rebounded with a 5-2 triumph in Thursday's meeting with the Capitals. Ryan Johansen had two goals and Sergei Bobrovsky made 30 saves to help Columbus get back to its winning ways.

Johansen's two-goal night pushed his team-leading total this season to 21 tallies in 54 games. The 21-year-old had 14 total goals over 107 career games heading into this season.

"He stepped up. I thought (Johansen) had a big game for us tonight," said Columbus head coach Todd Richards.

Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson and Derek MacKenzie also scored for the Blue Jackets, who are 15-11-2 as the host this season.

Columbus enters Saturday's test with 58 points, leaving it one point out of a playoff spot in the East and one point in back of Carolina for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The top-three teams in each division automatically qualify for the postseason, with the two remaining postseason spots in each conference coming in the form of wild cards.

The Blue Jackets made the only playoff appearance in franchise history in the spring of 2009, when they were promptly swept in the first round by Detroit.

Columbus has won the last five meetings in the series with Florida, but the teams haven't met since the Blue Jackets recorded a 4-1 home win on March 30, 2012. The Panthers have lost three straight in Ohio and haven't won in this series since notching a 5-2 win at Columbus on Nov. 21, 2007.

The Panthers, who are 10 points out of a playoff spot in the East, enter Saturday having lost two straight and three of their last four contests.

Florida held a 2-0 lead in the first period of Thursday's game in Toronto, but the Maple Leafs scored five unanswered goals en route to a 6-3 triumph at Air Canada Centre. Mason Raymond and James van Riemsdyk scored 31 seconds apart in the first minute of the second period to hand Toronto a 3-2 lead and the Leafs never looked back.

Panthers coach Peter Horachek said the two quick goals in the second period put some of his players "back on their heels."

"From that point on I think it was pretty even for the rest of the second period but the two quick goals really put the momentum back on their side," he said.

Nick Bjugstad, Sean Bergenheim and Dmitry Kulikov scored for the Panthers. Scott Clemmensen gave up all six goals on 32 shots.

Tim Thomas expects to get the start in net for Florida tonight after he surrendered six goals on 41 shots in Tuesday's loss against Boston. The former Bruin is 0-1-1 with a 3.33 goals against average in three career games against the Blue Jackets.

Florida is 11-15-3 as the visiting team this season and is wrapping a four- game road trip tonight. The Panthers will host Toronto in their next game on Tuesday.

02/01 11:47:32 ET

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5:10pm Tonight
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MIN 105
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NCAT 67
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STEPH 83
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MCNST 70
LAM 69
 
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SAV 49
NCCU 62
 
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