Florida Panthers vs. Columbus Blue Jackets Pick & Prediction NOVEMBER 6th 2023

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When the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the Florida Panthers on Monday night in Sunrise, Fla., it will be a battle of teams looking for an offensive boost.

Columbus has lost five of its past six games, including a 2-1 defeat at the Washington Capitals on Saturday. In that game, Columbus went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.

For the season, the Blue Jackets rank 26th in power-play percentage (12.8).

First-year head coach Pascal Vincent is optimistic, however.

“We see the play developing,” Vincent said. “We’re just missing a little poise. We’re forcing plays, and that’s hurting us.”

The Panthers’ power play is only slightly better at 25th, converting 13.9 percent of the time. Both teams have five power-play goals.

The Panthers also rank 25th in goals per game (2.60), slightly ahead of 27th-place Columbus (2.55).

This is surprising news for the Panthers, who ranked sixth in the NHL last season at 3.51 goals per game.

But, like Vincent, Panthers coach Paul Maurice is a positive thinker.

“I’m not worried about our offense,” Maurice said. “It’s there. I know it is.”

The Panthers, who made it to the Stanley Cup Final last season, are off to a slow start. After a road trip in which they lost two of three games, they woke up Sunday trailing Atlantic Division leader Boston by eight points.

A bright spot has been the play of Florida center Sam Reinhart, who entered Sunday tied for sixth in the NHL with eight goals. He was also tied for seventh in power-play goals with three.

Florida’s other star forwards, Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk, have two goals and seven assists apiece. Carter Verhaeghe has three goals and three assists so far.

Last season, Tkachuk had 40 goals and 69 assists, Verhaeghe had 42 goals and 31 assists and Barkov had 23 goals and 55 assists.

Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who rested Saturday when the Panthers lost 5-2 at Chicago, will likely start against Columbus. He is 4-3-1 with a 2.51 goals-against average.

Columbus’ starting goalie is Elvis Merzlikins, who is 3-3-2 with a 2.86 GAA. That’s a major improvement from his 4.23 GAA last season.

The Blue Jackets are looking for overall improvement from last season, when they were worst in the Eastern Conference with 59 points.

Injuries were partly to blame as the Blue Jackets set a franchise record with 563 man-games lost. That led to a franchise-record 18 rookies playing at least one game.

This season, the spotlight is on another rookie, 19-year-old center Adam Fantilli, the third pick in the 2023 draft. In 11 games, Fantilli has two goals and four assists. Russian rookie Dmitri Voronkov has two goals and two assists in five games.

Defenseman Ivan Provorov, acquired in the offseason from Philadelphia, leads Columbus with eight points (all on assists).

Columbus’ expected top line of Patrik Laine, captain Boone Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau has yet to reach its potential. Laine is on injured reserve, while Jenner has seven points and Gaudreau has five.

–Field Level Media

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