The Columbus Blue Jackets have ascended to the top of the Metropolitan Division on the heels of four consecutive victories and will look to match a season-best winning streak when they host the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night in the finale of a three-game homestand. Winners of five of six overall, the Blue Jackets are also riding a four-game win streak at home.
Two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky on Thursday declined to address a report that he is willing to waive his no-trade clause but did praise the recent play of backup Joonas Korpisalo. "He's playing well for the team," Bobrovsky said of Korpisalo, who has started three times during the current winning streak. "It's good for him. It's good for the team." Montreal also received a boost from its backup netminder, extending its winning streak to three games as Antti Niemi made a career-best 52 saves in Tuesday's 5-1 win over Florida. The Canadiens will be without forward Paul Byron, who will serve the first contest of a three-game suspension for his hit on Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, RSN2, RDS (Montreal), FS Ohio (Columbus)
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (26-17-5): Carey Price will be back in net for Montreal after posting two of his better back-to-back performances of the season, registering a shutout against Colorado before turning aside 41 shots in a 3-2 win at Boston. Coach Claude Julien said he plans to replace Byron with either Charles Hudon and Matthew Peca, who each practiced on the third line alongside Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia. "When you lose Byron, you also lose a penalty-killer," Julien said. "So it's not always who should go in, but who is the right guy to put in. So they will definitely get an opportunity."
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (28-15-3): Columbus' No. 1 line of Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson have sparked the team's latest surge -- all three have points in the past four games while Panarin has five goals during a four-game streak and Atkinson has scored in three straight to boost his team-leading total to 27. Forward Brandon Dubinsky, sidelined since hurting his hamstring on Jan. 8, was activated off injured reserve Thursday and is expected to rejoin the lineup. Bobrovsky is 9-5-1 with a 2.00 goals-against average versus Montreal, but coach John Tortorella declined to name a starter Thursday.
1. Price is 7-3-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average versus Columbus.
2. Panarin has mustered just one goal in 13 matchups against the Canadiens.
3. Montreal's league-worst power play is 2-for-23 over the last nine games.
PREDICTION: Blue Jackets 3, Canadiens 2 Bet Now
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