Saturday night’s game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings will feature a matchup of one team with a long shot to make the NHL playoffs and another team with no shot.
That pretty much summarizes the situation as the Blue Jackets visit Detroit.
For Columbus, it entered Friday’s games 14 points behind Washington for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
That’s not being completely out of it, but it’s also a lot of ground to make up for the Blue Jackets with just 10 games remaining in the regular season.
It’s been a terrible stretch to finish the season for Columbus (33-33-6, 72 points), which has seen its playoff prospects take a nosedive with just one win since March 19.
Columbus has lost eight of its past nine games.
Not helping the cause was that Columbus lost at home to one of the league’s worst teams on Thursday, the Philadelphia Flyers, so the Blue Jackets know time is running out if they want to get their ship back on course.
“I hope that’s one off (night),” Columbus coach Brad Larsen said. “We can’t play that way. We went out and played hockey. That’s it. We weren’t competitive enough. We weren’t hard enough. We skated around hoping to get the puck, hoping we get the shot on goal, hoping we got a rebound, and if it didn’t work out, oh well. That’s how we played. Everybody did.”
Sean Kuraly, who set up Eric Robinson’s goal in the first period on Thursday, has been placed in COVID-19 protocol and will sit out Saturday’s game.
Columbus hopes it can stop its free fall against a Detroit team that also has had a late-season swoon.
The Red Wings (28-34-9, 65 points) have lost 16 of their past 22 games (6-13-3) and are nearly eliminated from playoff contention, but Detroit does enter the game on a mini-hot streak.
Detroit beat the Boston Bruins at home on Tuesday and won at Winnipeg, a team fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, on Wednesday to win consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 9 and 12.
“I do think some guys have raised their urgency level and their sacrifice level,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “I think we were in a rut where we were kind of playing games. That’s not to say the guys weren’t working hard. I thought they were working hard. But it wasn’t that same level of sacrifice and compete work that you have to have when you are trying to earn a playoff spot. I think in large parts of the year, we had that. I think we lost it for a stretch. I understand we aren’t going to earn that spot, but we have to play like we are going to. I think we’ve done a better job of that lately.”
This will be the third and final meeting of the season between the teams, with each team winning at home.
Detroit earned a 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets on Oct. 19, while Columbus returned the favor on its home ice with a 5-3 win on Nov. 15.
–Field Level Media