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Blue Jackets prepare for playoffs in meeting with Panthers

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets will play their final game before getting set for just their second ever playoff appearance as they visit the Florida Panthers on Saturday evening.

The Blue Jackets have already clinched their first postseason appearance since getting swept by the Detroit Red Wings in the opening round of the 2009 playoffs, but their seeding is still to be decided.

Columbus lost a 3-2 decision on Friday night to the Tampa Bay Lightning to remain tied with the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings in the standings. All three teams have 91 points.

The Blue Jackets have played one more game than the Metropolitan Division- rival Flyers, who can clinch third place on Saturday with a win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. That would leave Columbus as a wild card team and with a pending first-round matchup with either the Eastern Conference-champion Boston Bruins or Metro-winning Penguins.

Columbus, which has four more non-shootout wins than Detroit, would clinch at least a playoff meeting with the Penguins with a victory over the Panthers.

The Blue Jackets had won three in a row before suffering last night's setback. Boone Jenner had a goal and assisted on David Savard's tally, while backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney posted 19 saves.

"They are a really good team. It was hard to get pucks on the net, especially from the points," said Savard.

Columbus played without forward Nathan Horton, who had abdominal surgery on Friday that will sideline him for six weeks.

The Blue Jackets have picked up a pair of victories over the Panthers this season to push their series winning streak to seven in a row. They are 4-2-0 all-time on the road versus Florida.

The Panthers will try to close out their regular season with a winning homestand, having gone 2-2-0 on the residency.

Florida handed the Toronto Maple Leafs a 4-2 setback on Thursday, with rookie Nick Bjugstad notching his first two-goal game to go along with a career-high three points.

Bjugstad assisted on Brad Boyes' tie-breaking goal with three seconds left in the second period before scoring twice in the third to help the Panthers win for only the second time in their past nine games.

"It was good to get the lead and obviously they bounced back and had one but we didn't let up," said Bjugstad, who now leads Florida with 38 points after snapping a 20-game goal-scoring drought.

Roberto Luongo made 27 saves for the Panthers, who are 16-19-5 at home on the season.

04/12 09:46:56 ET

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