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|CBJ||2||1||1||(0 - 0)||4|
After suffering perhaps their most heartbreaking defeat, the winless Columbus Blue Jackets might have caught just the break they've needed.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard will miss the Detroit Red Wings' attempt to rebound from their first loss of the season Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena.
Columbus (0-7-1) extended its worst start in team history Saturday in particularly miserable fashion. Up 3-2 at Ottawa in the final minute, the Blue Jackets allowed a Jason Spezza goal with 36 seconds left and Milan Michalek's winner with 4.7 seconds remaining.
Suddenly, a seemingly surefire two points turned into none.
"We played well for 59 minutes and then they got to us at the end," captain Rick Nash said. "It's tough. It seems like we're not getting any bounces. It seems like we're finding ways to lose games instead of finding ways to win games. That's the difference between good teams and bad teams right now."
The NHL's only winless team is trying to avoid becoming the first to drop nine straight to open a season since the Pittsburgh Penguins started 0-4-5 in 2005-06.
At least the Blue Jackets won't have to face the goaltender that helped beat them Friday.
Howard stopped 32 shots in a 5-2 victory to improve to 4-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average, but has left the team to be with his wife, Rachel, and first child. James Howard IV was born Sunday, and Joey MacDonald was recalled from Grand Rapids to take Howard's roster spot.
Ty Conklin is expected to start Tuesday after enduring a 7-1 drubbing against Washington - the NHL's lone unbeaten team - on Saturday. The seven goals allowed matched a career high for the journeyman.
"The difference in the game was in net," Conklin said. "I thought we created a lot of great chances and did a lot of great things. I just need to come up with some saves or start with a couple anyway.
Conklin, who played 11 games for Columbus during the 2006-07 season, was pulled from a start against the Blue Jackets on March 7 after giving up three goals in the first 10:10 of a 5-4 shootout win for St. Louis. He yielded four goals in a little more than 36 minutes during a relief effort in his most recent appearance at Nationwide on Nov. 10.
If Conklin can rebound from his miserable performance, the Red Wings (5-1-0) might have enough to continue their recent dominance in the series.
Detroit has outscored Columbus 61-30 while going 15-1-2 in the Central Division rivals' last 18 matchups, including a four-game playoff sweep in 2009. The Red Wings are also 5-0-2 in their last seven regular-season trips to Nationwide, outscoring the Blue Jackets 19-5.
There's every reason to believe that can continue with Detroit's power play back on track.
After going 0 for 16 through three games, the Red Wings are 5 of 12 with the man advantage in the last three games - including three goals in five attempts during the win over Columbus at Joe Louis Arena.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, have allowed opponents to score on five of seven power plays over the past two games. Ottawa went 2 for 2, including Michalek's goal.
Columbus should pay especially close attention to Valtteri Filppula. He had a career-high four points - including a goal - Friday, and has five goals and five assists over the last seven matchups.
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