(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets still have an inside track on just the second playoff berth in franchise history, but a victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night would still go a long way in restoring some confidence.
The Blue Jackets have lost three of four and five of their past eight (3-4-1) as the club has failed to pull away from a tight pack battling for the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference.
Columbus is one of four teams tied for the playoff bids with 80 points, joined by the Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blue Jackets, Red Wings and Capitals all own tiebreakers over the Maple Leafs, who have played two more games than all three clubs.
Columbus, meanwhile, is currently holding the first of two wild card spots thanks to four more non-shootout wins over Detroit and seven more than the Capitals.
Saturday marks the Blue Jackets' second straight night in action as they lost a 2-1 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. James Wisniewski had Columbus' lone goal and Curtis McElhinney kept his team in it by making 29 saves in his first start since Jan. 28.
"They were just throwing pucks from bad angles and getting it on net every chance they had," said McElhinney. "You know, it's a simple game sometimes and it's just a matter of getting the right bounces."
McElhinney got the call as Sergei Bobrovsky was still recovering from illness that forced him out of Tuesday's win over the Red Wings early. Mike McKenna backed up McElhinney last night, but Bobrovsky was able to make the trip to Carolina as his status remains unknown.
Bobrovsky is 5-3-0 with a 2.10 goals against average in his career versus the Hurricanes, while McElhinney is 0-2-0 with a 4.41 GAA in this matchup.
Carolina sits seven points out of a wild card spot with nine games to play and had lost four of six before a 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Jiri Tlusty scored twice and Anton Khudobin made 35 saves in his first shutout of the season and third of his career.
Jeff Skinner scored Carolina's other goal, while Khudobin capped his effort with a 12-save third period.
"It's always good when you didn't get scored on in a game obviously," Khudobin said. "We just got the (win), that's the most important thing."
Khudobin helped keep the Panthers off the scoreboard despite the opponent getting plenty of power-play time after Carolina's Radek Dvorak was assessed a charging major and game misconduct for running into Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo late in the first period.
"I made the shot and then like I said I was driving like 100 miles per hour to the net and then I got a little push and then next thing I knew I was in the net with (Luongo)," Dvorak recalled. "It was not intentional at all. That's not my style."
Khudobin's efforts may have earned him another start tonight over Cam Ward and the former is 2-1-0 with a 2.00 GAA in his career against the Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets won their first two meetings this season with the Hurricanes to run their series winning streak to seven straight, but Carolina has responded with back-to-back wins.
The 'Canes' 3-2 victory on Jan. 27 snapped a three-game series home losing streak.