COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The trainer’s room is getting more crowded every day, but the Columbus Blue Jackets are winning anyway.
Columbus had nine players sidelined Saturday night due to injury or illness. With lines pieced together with remaining veterans and guys who started the season in the minors, the Blue Jackets won their fourth straight and extended a season-high point streak to seven games (5-0-2).
Oliver Bjorkstrand scored 26 seconds into the game and added another goal later in the first period as the Blue Jackets cruised to a 5-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. Bjorkstrand left the bench with an apparent injury in the third period and didn’t return, but the extent of it wasn’t clear and the team gave no details.
“Obviously, we’re down guys, but that’s no excuse in the NHL,” said Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski, who had an empty-net goal late in the game. “Teams go though injuries. You’ve got to find a way to win at the end of the day. Every guy that has come up here has played extremely well for us, given us good minutes and played hard. That’s all you can ask for.”
Joonas Korpisalo had 21 saves, and rookie Vladislav Gavrikov and Gustav Nyquist also scored for the Blue Jackets.
“These last games, there’s not too much work for me,” Korpisalo said. “I see pucks. The guys are doing a great job there clearing pucks in front, battling in front, scoring goals.”
Will Butcher scored for the Devils and Gilles Senn, starting his first NHL game, made 34 saves. The Devils lost their second game in two nights after falling to Washington 6-3 on Friday. They have dropped five of seven and are last in the Metropolitan Division, 11 points behind seventh-place Columbus.
“We don’t have an attacking mentality enough,” Devils coach Alaine Nasreddine said. “To score goals in this league you have to be hungry, you’ve got to be willing to get to the net, you’ve got to be able to get to the hard areas. Tonight some guys had it and some guys didn’t. We just didn’t generate enough.”
It was a quick start for the Blue Jackets. Bjorkstrand got a pass off the wall from Boone Jenner and connected with a one-timer from the high slot. Bjorkstrand got his second of the game at 8:06 of the first period when Pierre-Luc Dubois fed him in the slot. The two goals came on the Blue Jackets’ first three shots.
Bjorkstrand has five goals and two assists in a four-game point streak.
Butcher’s first goal in 13 games made it 2-1 later in the period. He banged one past Korpisalo from the left circle during 4-on-4 play.
Gavrikov snapped a shot past Senn’s blocker with 6:47 left in the second to make it 3-1. Werenski added a short-handed, empty-net goal with 2:52 remaining in the game, and Nyquist matched it with 1:12 left to complete the scoring.
“We’re in the middle of a win streak right now, a points streak,” Werenski said. “The locker room has been awesome. It’s been fun coming to the rink. We’ve got one more game here before Christmas and so hopefully end on a high note.”
Columbus was without forward Cam Atkinson, who sustained a lower-body injury in Thursday’s overtime win against Los Angeles. He is expected to miss at least one more game. Dubois played in his 200th NHL game. He has seven points in his past five.
Columbus D David Savard missed a second game due to illness. New Jersey D Connor Carrick played for the first time since he was injured in October. Columbus forward Ryan MacInnis made his NHL debut.
The Devils visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday.
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