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Down the rink: Columbus Blue Jackets recap – Week 7

Right wing Cam Atkinson signed a seven-year contract extension on Nov. 17 with the Blue Jackets. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

The Columbus Blue Jackets bounced back from three straight losses the week before to take two games against quality opponents.

Defenseman Zach Werenski buried an overtime goal against Montreal and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky had a 36-save, 2-0 shutout victory for his 21st career shutout with Columbus against the New York Rangers.

Before the Jackets face off with Buffalo in New York on Monday night, here’s the rundown from this past week’s three major storylines.

Tortorella searching for answers defensively

As expected, the top defensive line of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski have continued to be the force carries the Jackets in their own zone. Past that, the defense remains largely unsolved. The difference this week, head coach John Tortorella is sending a message.

He surprisingly made David Savard a healthy scratch Friday against the Rangers due to his play. Savard has been a defensive staple for the better part of four seasons, but the blue-liner certainly hasn’t played up to par to this point. Rookie Gabriel Carlsson replaced Savard on the second line.

The second defensive pairing of Jack Johnson and David Savard gave up the only goal the Jackets allowed this week in a continued downward spiral from two of Columbus’ most consistent defenders last season. The two have the lowest plus-minus rating of any defensive fixtures in the lineup. Both recorded career-highs in plus-minus last year — Savard plus-33, Johnson plus-23.

Savard will be back in the lineup Monday with Carlsson being sent back to Cleveland, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Blue Jackets.

Zach Werenski finding offensive rhythm

It’s no secret the Blue Jackets have struggled on offense this season, despite having some of the best young talent in the Metropolitan division.

Even for defensemen, that can be frustrating. But Werenski found the back of the net twice, both in game-winning fashion. His overtime goal against Montreal then a second-period wrister against New York.

His offense from the blue line is arguably just as important as getting the forwards onto the scoring sheet. If Werenski can carry his two-game goal streak over to the power play, the Jackets can return to offensive prominence as many expected before the season.

Atkinson signs seven-year extension

The next two offseasons are going to test the front office, with 15 players listed as an unrestricted or restricted free agent in the 2018 and 2019 offseasons. But team president John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen can cross one off the board with a huge seven-year deal, reportedly in excess of $40 million to Cam Atkinson. The new deal also includes a no-move clause.

Atkinson, 28, has led the Jackets in scoring the past two seasons and should remain a big part of the franchise’s offense for years to come.

He failed to record a point in his first game on Friday since his signing, but fired a team-high seven shots and moved furiously through the Rangers defense, attacking the net on each shift.

Injury report

  • Third-line left wing Matt Calvert was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 6. Calvert is expected to miss three to four weeks with an upper body injury.
  • Fourth-line center Lukas Sedlak is on injured reserve with ankle injury retroactive to Oct. 23.
  • Alexander Wennberg has missed the past two games with unknown injury.

Looking ahead

Currently on a three-game winning streak, the Blue Jackets are tied atop the Metropolitan division with Pittsburgh and New Jersey with 25 points. After Monday, they have four of their next five games at home against four teams that have winning records.

Top performers (skaters)

Zach Werenski – two goals (6), two points (12), +2

Brandon Dubinsky – two assists (6), two points (8), +1

Josh Anderson – one goal (7), one point (10), +1

Artemi Panarin – one goal (4), one point (14), 1 power-play goal

Goaltending:

Sergei Bobrovsky – 2-0-0 (11-4-1), 0.50 goals allowed average (2.02), 64 saves, .985 save percentage (.933)

In the circle (faceoff record, faceoff win percentage, EV record, PP record, SH record)

Brandon Dubinsky – 34-16, 68.0, 29-14, 0-0, 5-2

Nick Foligno – 16-19, 45.7, 12-19, 3-0, 1-0

Pierre-Luc Dubois – 7-7, 50.0, 0-0, 0-0, 0-0

Jordan Schroeder – 8-3, 72.7, 7-3, 1-0, 0-0

Overall: 569-636 (47.2 percent), ranked 28th

Special teams units:

Powerplay – 0-for-2 at Montreal; 1-for-3 vs. New York Rangers

Overall: 6-for-57 (10.5 percent), ranked 31st

Penalty kill – 2-for-2 at Montreal; 3-for-3 vs. New York Rangers

Overall: 42-for-51 (82.3 percent), ranked 12th

Up next:

11/20 – at Buffalo (5-11-4)

11/22 – vs. Calgary (11-8-0)

11/24 – vs. Ottawa (8-5-6)

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