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Hurricanes vs. Blue Jackets: Game Preview 12-23-13

It took 37 games into the season, but tonight the Carolina Hurricanes finally face new Metro Division rival Columbus Blue Jackets.

Jamie Kellner

Carolina Hurricanes vs Columbus Blue Jackets
December 23, 2013 - 7:00 pm EST
PNC Arena - Raleigh, NC
TV - Fox Sports Carolinas
Radio - 99.9 The Fan

SB Nation Rival Blog: The Cannon (@cbjcannon)

Hurricanes Record: 14-14-8 (36 pts.)
Blue Jackets Record: 15-17-4 (34 pts.)

The Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets finally get a chance tonight to begin a Metro Division rivalry. The teams will meet five times this season; three times at PNC and twice in Columbus. The Canes are coming into tonight's game off a 3-2 overtime road loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. The Blue Jackets picked up two important points with a 6-3 home win against divisional opponent Philadelphia Flyers, also on Saturday.

The Canes and Jackets met twice in the preseason: the first a 5-4 loss in Raleigh (featuring the famous "jersey tuck" incident), and the second a 2-1 Canes win in Columbus (featuring close to an opening night roster). As far as regular seasons go, the Canes haven't beaten Columbus since 2005, the Blue Jackets have won the last five straight, the most recent an R.J. Umberger hat trick in Columbus for a 5-1 win on March 23, 2012.

Both teams are middling in the Metro Division, outside a playoff spot, but only three points separate New Jersey in third from Columbus in seventh, so division wins, especially in regulation, are critical for both teams at this juncture.

The Blue Jackets have suffered severely on the injury front this year. Off-season acquisition Nathan Horton has yet to suit up for the Jackets after shoulder surgery, but is traveling with the team to assimilate into the group. 2013 Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky remains on IR recovering from a groin strain, as does Jared Boll, who is recovering from a torn ankle tendon. The hapless Marion Gaborik just returned Saturday from a 17-game absence due to a knee sprain, only to suffer a broken collarbone which puts him back out of the lineup indefinitely. Matt Calvert also left Saturday's game with an upper body injury and did not travel to Raleigh.

A few positive rosters changes as James Wisniewski returned Saturday after missing six games with an upper body injury, and Derek MacKenzie and Jack Skille will return tonight.

Ryan Johansen leads the Jackets with 29 points (14g, 15a), followed by Brandon Dubinsky with 22 points (6g, 16a). Johansen has 16 points in his last 13 games. Umberger is on a hot streak with three goals in his last 3 games.

Curtis McElhinney will make his third consecutive start in net; he is 0-for-2 career against the Canes.

Projected line-up from Jackets official web site (note, does not reflect Calvert out and MacKenzie in):

Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen - RJ Umberger
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Blake Comeau
Boone Jenner - Artem Anisimov - Cam Atkinson
Jack Skille - Mark Letestu - Corey Trapp

Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson
Ryan Murray - James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin - Dalton Prout
David Savard

Curtis McElhinney
Mike McKenna

The Canes didn't practice Sunday after arriving home from Tampa, and they won't skate today either, although Kirk Muller will hold a media scrum around 11:00 am.

Jay Harrison left the game early Saturday after suffering an upper body injury, his status for tonight is unknown. With Ryan Murphy and Mike Komisarek sitting out as healthy extras, perhaps at least one will be back in the lineup tonight.

Although the ultimate outcome was a loss, with his 47-save performance Saturday night, many of the highlight reel variety, it's likely Justin Peters will get the start in net again tonight. Peters has never faced Columbus; Cam Ward is 0-for-4.

Projected lines based on Saturday's game:

Jeff Skinner - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu
Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Alexander Semin
Jiri Tlusty - Riley Nash - Patrick Dwyer
Drayson Bowman - Manny Malhotra - Radek Dvorak/Kevin Westgarth

Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk
Ron Hainsey - Brett Bellemore
Jay Harrison - Tim Gleason
Mike Komisarek - Ryan Murphy

Justin Peters
Cam Ward

For those watching the broadcast, Fox Sports Carolinas will be rocking the Phantom Cam tomorrow night. We'll have the open game thread ready to roll at 6:30 pm. See you at the rink.