The team with the worst record in the Eastern Conference battles the team with the worst record in the Western Conference on Tuesday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the San Jose Sharks.
It’s the first game of a five-game road trip for Columbus, which has the fewest points (47) and lowest points percentage (.362) in the NHL. San Jose is tied with Chicago for the second-fewest points in the league (50) but has played one more game and owns the second-worst points percentage in the league at .373.
Why does it matter? Both teams are in the race for the worst record in the league and thus the best odds at winning the NHL’s draft lottery — and the right to pick Connor Bedard.
The 17-year-old Bedard, a center with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League where he is putting up video game-like statistics, is considered a generational talent and the best prospect since Connor McDavid. He was the MVP of the 2023 World Junior Championships after leading the Canadian National Team to the gold medal, breaking the World Junior record for points by a player under the age of 19 held by Jaromir Jagr in the process.
The team with the worst record has an 18.5 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft. Those odds fall to 13.5 percent for the team with the second-worst record and 11.5 percent for third worst.
So there’s actually a lot riding on Tuesday night’s contest.
The game also pits the team tied with Arizona for the fewest road wins (seven) in Columbus against a San Jose team that has the worst home record in the NHL (6-19-8). The Sharks are the only team in the league without double-digit home wins.
San Jose, which has lost three in a row, comes in off a 5-2 loss to Minnesota on Saturday in the opening game of a four-game homestand.
Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl each had a goal and an assist in the loss and James Reimer made 24 saves for the Sharks, who outshot Minnesota 18-5 in the first period but still trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 of 37 shots in the win.
“We played a good hockey game,” San Jose coach David Quinn said. “We were sniping from an offensive perspective (and) we had plenty of scoring chances. Fleury played great. And we’ve just been finding ways to lose. We’ve looked at it until we’re blue in the face and I don’t think we’ve played much differently at home than we have on the road.”
Columbus comes in off a 5-2 home loss to St. Louis on Saturday and will be playing the first game of a five-game road trip that begins in California and ends in Washington, D.C.
Jordan Kyrou had a hat trick for St. Louis, which jumped out to a 3-1 first-period lead and led 4-1 midway through the final period. Patrik Laine and Boone Jenner scored goals for Columbus, which is 0-3-1 and has been outscored 19-10 in its last four games.
“It was a real strange game,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “We had 11 missed shots in the first period, and five were prime scoring (chances) and we don’t hit the net, we don’t make him make a save, we don’t create a rebound or anything.
“It stings. It kind of leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth. Bad mistakes that cost you goals. We really hurt ourselves in that game.”
This is the second meeting this season between the two teams. The Blue Jackets scored three times in the third period to pull out a 5-3 victory Jan. 21 in Columbus.
–Field Level Media