Blue Jackets aim to halt skid vs. Panthers

( - The playoff-hopeful Columbus Blue Jackets will try to halt a three-game slide when they host the Florida Panthers in Saturday's matinee clash at Nationwide Arena.

The Blue Jackets, who enter Saturday five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, have made the postseason just once in their history. That was back in 2009 when Columbus was promptly swept out of the playoffs by the Detroit Red Wings.

Columbus did not get its postseason push off to a good start in its first game following the Olympics, as the Blue Jackets were dealt a 5-2 setback Thursday night in New Jersey. The win allowed the Devils to tie the Jackets and Ottawa in the conference standings.

New Jersey scored three times in the opening nine minutes of the game to grab a commanding 3-0 lead over Columbus. Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky allowed four goals on 34 shots in the setback.

Artem Anisimov notched a goal and an assist in the setback, while Marian Gaborik, who hadn't played since Dec. 21 due to a broken collarbone, also lit the lamp for the Blue Jackets.

"You have no choice but to have a short-term memory about it," Columbus head coach Todd Richards said of the loss. "Whether it was a good game or a bad game, you have to learn from it and move on. You don't want to dwell on things too much, whether good or bad."

Columbus, which had lost two straight heading into the NHL's Olympic break, has lost six of its last nine games following a club-record eight-game winning streak from Jan. 6-23.

The Panthers also lost for the third straight time in their first game following the league's hiatus for the Winter Games. Florida was handed a 5-4 regulation setback by visiting Washington on Thursday, as the Capitals dealt the Panthers their sixth loss in seven games.

Alex Ovechkin's goal with 4:17 remaining snapped a tie game and lifted the Caps to victory in South Florida. The Panthers trailed 4-2 after 40 minutes before tying the contest on a pair of quick goals from Drew Shore and Brad Boyes near the midway point of the third period. However, Ovechkin's 41st goal of the season proved to be the difference.

"You fight back and you fight back and you get it tied up and then you give them the winner," Florida head coach Peter Horachek said. "It's frustrating.

Boyes registered two goals in the loss and former Washington forward Tomas Fleischmann also scored. Tim Thomas finished with 27 saves.

The regulation setback did not help aid the Panthers already slim postseason chances. Florida is currently sitting in 15th place out of 16 teams in the East and is 17 points removed from a playoff spot.

Saturday's test marks the first stop on a three-game road trip for the Panthers, who are only 11-17-3 as the visiting team this season. Florida enters today's tilt on a four-game road losing streak and the club hasn't won away from home since beating Detroit on Jan. 26.

The Panthers haven't fared well in this series either, losing six straight, seven of eight and eight of the past 10 meetings with the Blue Jackets. Columbus has claimed four in a row and five of the past six encounters at Nationwide Arena.