And of course that number is 61, as Rick Nash still retains just about every major record in team history from when the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft starred with Columbus in a nine-year career with the team.
But once all the pomp and circumstance is over — fans are being asked to be in their seats by 5:30, with doors opening at 5, for the expected hour-long ceremony — there will be a game to play. It will be a big one when it comes to the postseason race, and it will be a chance for the Blue Jackets to get back in the win column after a tough overtime loss Friday night.
GAMEDAY GUIDE: A busy night in Columbus highlighted by Nash ceremony
The Blue Jackets had to come to the media room to answer for a tough loss for the second time in six days, as Columbus dropped a 4-3 decision Friday to Los Angeles in Nationwide. Just like Sunday night against Pittsburgh, the team saw a third-period lead go by the wayside, and it watched a tough refereeing decision — Sunday, it was no goaltender interference call on the winning goal by the Penguins late in the third, while Friday it was an overturned goal in overtime by an offside review — go against it.
For a team with little margin for error as it tries to chase down a playoff spot, those lost points are akin to gut punches.
“Yeah, it’s a tough one,” Oliver Bjorkstrand, who scored his seventh goal in 11 games, said postgame. “I thought we had a good lead and played some good hockey, but they found a way. Yeah.”
There isn’t a ton to say, as the Blue Jackets were left with a bitter taste in their mouth because of the way the game ended. Boone Jenner‘s overtime winner seemingly had sent the Columbus crowd home happy, but review showed Columbus had entered the zone offside. Minutes later, once play restarted and the victory streamers were pushed aside, Viktor Arvidsson completed a hat trick for the Kings with the winning goal on a breakaway.
It was a tough way to lose, but even tougher was the fact the three fastest goals in team history — tallies by Patrik Laine, Bjorkstrand and Justin Danforth in a 46-second stretch late in the second — did not result in a win. Columbus took a 3-1 advantage into the third period, but Dustin Brown scored early in the frame when Elvis Merzlikins, who had been brilliant for much of the game, misplayed a shot, then Arvidsson tied the game with 3:46 to go.
“We started really well (in the third), and that second goal gives them life,” head coach Brad Larsen said. “That’s a tough one. Elvis is having a good game. It’s unfortunate that one goes in, and then they’re one shot away. I think that gave them a little bit of juice. Stuff like that happens and we get it to overtime there, you think you win, we don’t, so yeah, it’s a tough one to swallow right now.”
But as always in hockey, there’s a chance to atone quickly, and in this case, it comes 24 hours later at the downtown barn.
“We just have to forget about this and start focusing on tomorrow,” Merzlikins said.
Know the Foe
One of the most consistent and successful franchises in the NHL is yet again on a playoff course – unless the Blue Jackets have anything to say about it.
Columbus enters the game ninth in the Eastern Conference and chasing the Bruins, who are 12 points ahead and in seventh in the East, for a wild card spot. That makes this a four-point game, a big one if the Jackets hope to catch Boston and deny the 2011 Stanley Cup champs a sixth straight playoff appearance, a 13th berth in 15 seasons and a 47th run for the Stanley Cup in the past 54 years.
The Bruins also have turned it on of late, responding to the challenge from Columbus by winning six of the last seven games while giving up just 12 goals in that span. That’s fitting, as even without longtime goalie Tuukka Rash, Boston is living on defense as the team places fifth in the league with just 2.66 goals allowed per game and 10th in penalty kill at 81.8 percent. The offense hasn’t been prolific — with 3.00 goals per game, the Bruins are 17th in the NHL — but the power play is the seventh-best in the league (24.2 percent).
It’s the usual suspects for Boston, as David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron lead the way on the score sheet with Taylor Hall and Charlie McAvoy close behind. Marchand and Bergeron have been skating together for much of the season and have been impressive no matter who they are with; it’s been DeBrusk recently, one reason the latter has seven goals in the last seven games after a slow start.
Pastrnak, though, is the one on top of the charts this year, as his 31 goals are sixth in the NHL, while he adds 25 assists for a team-high 56 points. Marchand is right behind with a 23-31-54 line, and Bergeron has 15 goals and 26 assists for 41 points along with a plus-14. Hall adds 12-28-40, while McAvoy has been one of the top puck possession defensemen in the league while posting a 7-27-34 line and a plus-11 rating.
Former CBJ captain Nick Foligno has battled injuries and has played in 38 games, posting a 2-7-9 line, while former Jackets draft picks Mike Reilly and John Moore have also been parts of the defensive corps.
In net, Rask attempted a comeback from hip surgery midway through the year but retired after four games, but Jeremy Swayman has picked up the slack. Per MoneyPuck.com, he is fourth among NHL goalies with at least 20 games played in goals saved above expected per 60, as he is 14-7-3 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in 25 games. Linus Ullmark, meanwhile, has played 28 games and is 17-9-1 with a 2.80 GAA and .908 save percentage.