Ailing Columbus Blue Jackets Hope to Prevent Fifth Straight Loss Against Dallas

With a season opener win against Nashville on the road and a hard-fought shootout loss against Detroit last Monday, the Columbus Blue Jackets seemed poised to surprise many of their doubters this season.

Since losing their home opener at Nationwide Arena, the Jackets have lost three more to boot – two lop-sided defeats to Phoenix and Colorado on the road, and a frustratingly close home loss against the Chicago Blackhawks last Saturday night. A loss tonight would make it five straight L’s for Columbus.

Tonight, the Blue Jackets’ work will continue to be cut out for them, as they are not only a team facing the skilled and deep forward lineup of the Dallas Stars, but also as the first team this season to face Dallas with star center Jamie Benn in the lineup for the Stars tonight.

Benn, whose work permit cleared this afternoon, is fresh off of signing a five-year contract with Dallas, worth $26.5 million. He will be joined on the top line by Jaromir Jagr, who also returns to the Stars lineup this evening. Jagr missed Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Blues (a 4-3 Blues win over the Stars) while dealing with a back issue.

Meanwhile, Columbus will be doing some line-shuffling of their own tonight:  Derek MacKenzie will be a scratch tonight in favor of Colton Gilles, who is playing in his first NHL game since April 7th, 2012. He will skate on the fourth line left wing alongside fourth-line center Mark Letestu and right wing Jared Boll.

On the injury front, Columbus winger Cam Atkinson remains out of the lineup with a groin injury. The Blue Jackets remain desperate for offense in the wake of Atkinson’s injury – just a goal away from being tied for the worst offense in the NHL. Things will be especially important for Columbus while having the man-advatange – the Dallas Stars remain the only team in the NHL that has not allowed a powerplay goal on the road so far in the 2013 season.

Tonight’s lines will be the following :

Columbus forward lines :

Umberger – Anisimov – Dorsett

Calvert – Dubinsky – Brassard

Foligno – Johansen – Prospal

Gilles – Letestu – Boll

Columbus defensive pairings :

Tyutin – Nikitin

Johnson – Wisniewski

Moore – Aucoin

(Scratch – David Savard)

Dallas forward lines :

Eriksson – Benn – Jagr

Whitney – Eakin – Ryder

Nystrom – Fiddler – Vincour

Morrow – Wandell – Garbutt

Dallas defensive pairings :

Goligoski – Robidas

Benn – Dillon

Daley – Rome

Goaltending :

Kari Lehtonen (2-0-1 with a 2.23 GAA and a .944 save percentage) will get the nod between the pipes for Dallas. Sergei Bobrovsky (1-1-1 with a 2.84 GAA and a .913 save percentage) gets the start in net for Columbus.

- You can follow Joe Depto on Twitter at @JoeDepto

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