Boston is 22-9-4 away from the TD Garden this season, but Tuesday they stop in Columbus. Trips to Ohio have been rare for the Bruins, victories there even rarer. Boston hasn't won at Columbus since before the lockout, their last victory being a 4-0 shutout back on Nov. 14, 2003.
The Bruins are also in the midst of a season-worst four-game losing streak. To snap that in a place where Patrice Bergeron is the only current Bruin to have experienced a win while playing for Boston, Bruins coach Claude Julien is apparently willing to consider shaking things up a bit.
Tuukka Rask was the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate, indicating he will likely get the start in net over Tim Thomas. Rask hasn't played since allowing four goals on 26 shots in Montreal last Tuesday, snapping a season-high four-game win streak of his own.
Even more surprising was that Julien after the skate stated that Tyler Seguin could return to the lineup in this one. That in itself is not too shocking, even with the rookie's recent struggles. The surprise comes from the fact that if Seguin plays, it's not fourth-liner Daniel Paille who will come out.
Seguin has been practicing as the spare forward on the third line, and if he plays, it will be alongside Chris Kelly and Mark Recchi on that line, with veteran Michael Ryder sitting for the first time this season. Julien stated no decision would be made until game time, but the fact he's considering such a move illustrates how far Ryder has fallen.
"Michael is a streaky player," Julien told reporters after the skate. "In his case, he's here to score goals. He's been known to score goals. But at the same time, when those things don't come, players have to give an effort in other areas as well. That's why we're going to be making a decision [Tuesday night] on who [plays] moving forward.
"At this stage of the season, we want some accountability from everybody," Julien continued. "The message has to be clear that everybody has to step their game up. If we're going to be successful, then when things aren't going well, you have to bring something else to the table. Effort is a big part of it. If you're not scoring, you have to make sure you're good in your own end. You have to do some other things that help the hockey club."
Ryder is fifth on the team with 17 goals and seventh with 37 points, but he has 0-1-1 totals in his last six games and just one goal in his last 14. But judging from Julien's comments, it's more Ryder overall play than just his scoring slump that has him in the coach's doghouse. Ryder is a minus-3 on the season, the worst mark on the team among players who have played more than 25 games in Boston this season.
Defenseman Steven Kampfer (concussion) has been cleared to play and will return to the lineup after missing four games. Fellow blueliners Andrew Ference (lower body) and Shane Hnidy (shoulder) remain out, though Ference is close to returning.
The Blue Jackets are expected to start Steve Mason in goal. With Chris Clark expected to miss three to four weeks with a lower-body injury suffered Saturday in Carolina, Columbus has just 12 healthy forwards available. Ethan Moreau will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Saturday.
Columbus coach Scott Arniel, a former Bruin player and uncle of current Bruins prospect Jamie Arniel, has been forced to juggle his lines due to injuries. That includes moving enforcer Jared Boll up to the second line.
Defenseman Marc Methot (lower body) could return in this game, but forwards Kristian Huselius (ankle) and Andrew Murray (lower body) and defenseman Anton Stralman (knee) remain out.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Rich Peverley
Mark Recchi-Chris Kelly-Michael Ryder/Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille-Greg Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Tomas Kaberle-Adam McQuaid
Dennis Seidenberg-Steven Kampfer
Scratches: Seguin/Ryder, Andrew Ference (lower body), Shane Hnidy (shoulder)
Projected Blue Jackets lines
Rick Nash-Derick Brassard-Jakub Voracek
R.J. Umberger-Antoine Vermette-Jared Boll
Ethan Moreau-Samuel Pahlsson-Derek Dorsett
Scottie Upshall-Derek MacKenzie-Matt Calvert
Fedor Tyutin-Sami Lepisto
Jan Hejda-Grant Clitsome
Kris Russell-Craig Rivet
Scratches: Marc Methot (lower body), Chris Clark (lower body), Kristian Huselius (ankle), Anton Stralman (knee), Andrew Murray (lower body)