Minnesota Wild (17-8-5) at Columbus Blue Jackets (11-14-3), 7 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without their top goaltender for at least the next month, but on Friday the club will try to record consecutive wins for the first time since October when it hosts the Minnesota Wild at Nationwide Arena.
On Wednesday, the Blue Jackets announced that reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to be sidelined 4-to-5 weeks with a groin strain, leaving journeyman Curtis McElhinney as the de facto No. 1 in Bobrovsky's absence.
Bobrovsky sustained the injury while making a save during the third period of Tuesday's 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Blue Jackets officially placed him on injured reserve in order to clear a roster spot and then recalled goalie Mike McKenna from Springfield of the AHL to back up McElhinney.
"I'm sort of always the optimist in these situations," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "As unfortunate as it is to go through injuries and injuries to those guys with more of a bigger role, it's an opportunity for someone else. Curtis has patiently waited for every opportunity he's gotten so far ... he's worked his butt off. He's played really well for us, and now he has a great chance with the unfortunate thing that's happened to Sergei."
The 25-year-old Bobrovsky was named the NHL's top goaltender last season after recording a 21-11-6 record with a 2.00 goals against average, .932 save percentage and four shutouts over 38 games. However, Bobrovsky's numbers have dropped off some this season, having posted a 2.72 GAA and a .909 save percentage while going 10-11-2 in 23 outings.
McElhinney will get the start tonight. He has a 1-1-1 record and a 2.95 GAA in four career outings against the Wild.
Nick Foligno scored with a between-the-legs move to lead the Blue Jackets to Tuesday's 1-0 win against visiting Tampa Bay. Foligno drew his stick and the puck backward between his legs and flipped a forehand past Ben Bishop's right pad 4:30 into the second period.
Bobrovsky stopped all 18 shots he faced before exiting the game. McElhinney added eight stops to combine on the shutout.
Columbus is 6-7-1 as the host this season and will shoot for its third straight home win tonight when it closes out a two-game stay at Nationwide Arena.
The Wild enter Friday having won two straight on the heels of a season-worst four-game losing streak.
Both recent victories came at home, where the Wild have recorded 12 of their 17 wins this season. Minnesota ended the slide with Monday's 2-0 win over Philadelphia and then notched a 4-3 regulation decision against Chicago on Thursday.
The Wild held off the defending Stanley Cup champions and current leaders of the Central Division in Thursday's battle at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota went down 3-2 over six minutes in the third period after coughing up an early 2-0 lead, but Jonas Brodin scored the tying goal for the Wild and Marco Scandella won it late in regulation.
Matt Cooke and Zach Parise also lit the lamp and Jared Spurgeon added two assists for the Wild. Josh Harding stopped 16 shots for the win.
"When you start the game that way and play the game that way, it's easier to battle through (the Chicago comeback)," Wild head coach Mike Yeo said.
The Wild are playing four of five and eight of their next 10 games on the road, where they are just 5-5-3 this season. Minnesota will host San Jose on Sunday before embarking on a three-game road trip that begins Wednesday in Anaheim.
The Blue Jackets have taken three of five and five of the last nine meetings in this series. However, the Wild have claimed three of the past five encounters in Ohio, going 3-1-1 at Nationwide Arena during that stretch.