Blue Jackets still motivated with Devils next
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When the Columbus Blue Jackets leave New Jersey on Sunday night, they could do so with 100 points while moving a step closer to securing the Presidents' Trophy.
Not that it means anything to Columbus coach John Tortorella, whose team will take on the Devils at Prudential Center on Sunday afternoon.
"I'm not in the conversation about the Presidents' whatever it's called," said Tortorella to the Columbus Dispatch. "I don't mind (the players) talking about it and looking up (in the standings) because I think that's very important to have the confidence to look up," he said. "Just as long as (they) are not skipping anything every day."
They haven't skipped much recently. They've won three straight and six of seven after a 3-2 overtime victory against the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon.
After winning 16 straight games from November to January, the Blue Jackets had a lull. They were 13-12-2 over their next 27 games but have gotten hot recently to give themselves a chance at securing home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
"That's what you are fighting for," captain Nick Foligno said to the Columbus Dispatch. "It just gives us great motivation every game. I know we are playing some teams that are out of (the playoff race) or are fighting for (a playoff spot), and it allows us to have that emotion every time we step on the ice."
"(The Presidents' Trophy) obviously gives you something to strive for rather than just (coasting) into the playoffs," Brandon Dubinsky said to the Columbus Dispatch. "And, when you are playing that way, you are staying on top of your game rather than, 'Let's just get through these games,' and you're not ready when it gets ramped up for the playoffs. It will allow us to peak at the right time."
While the Blue Jackets have everything working for them, the Devils are once again playing out the string.
The Devils broke a 10-game losing streak Thursday by beating the Philadelphia Flyers 6-2 on Friday night but began a new skid with a 6-4 loss in Pittsburgh the following night. When this season ends, it mark the fifth straight season the Devils have missed the postseason since reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.
With their postseason hopes gone, the Devils have been giving a lengthy look at backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid. He started the Devils' past two games while Cory Schneider watched.
"There's a whole different mentality of being a backup to being a starter, the stress of playing back-to-back games, the ability to put a win or a loss right away and come back and play really well," Devils coach John Hynes said, according to the Bergen Record. "That's the challenge for Keith. We're going to see if he's grown in that area."
Hynes is also giving rookies Pavel Zacha and Joseph Blandisi more responsibility over the rest of the season as the Devils assess what they have for the 2017-18 season.
"I thought they did a good job on back to back nights," Hynes told the Bergen Record. "There were some situations tonight, breakout wise and detail wise against a quick team with lots of pressure. I think there's a lot of good teaching points with both those guys. In general they did a good job. Faceoff wise it was OK. That's part of what we're doing. We have to grow some centermen in our organization. They are hard to find."
Updated March 18, 2017