Hurricanes return home to face Blue Jackets (Dec 16, 2017)

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Columbus Blue Jackets are assessing solutions to fill a hole in the lineup while the Carolina Hurricanes are in need of upgrades in several areas.

The Metropolitan Division teams meet Saturday night at PNC Arena, where the Hurricanes haven’t played on home ice in two weeks.

Columbus is just one game removed from an injury that could alter the course of its season.

The Blue Jackets (20-11-1) announced that center Brandon Dubinsky will miss up to eight weeks after suffering an orbital bone fracture Tuesday night. Dubinsky had a plus-5 rating along with 12 points in 31 games.

So that suddenly puts Boone Jenner in the spotlight. Through one game when he was switched to center in a heightened role, there were encouraging results. Columbus won 6-4 on Thursday night at home against the New York Islanders, finishing a three-game homestand.

“As the game went on, I thought he ended up handling himself really well,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said, noting Jenner’s strong outing on faceoffs. “It’s one game, (Dubinsky) is going to be out for a while. I’m not going to lock into anything. I’m never going to lock myself in and say we have an answer.”

Jenner would like to be a part of that solution.

“It’s a different kind of game,” he said. “There’s more reads, you’re more involved. You want to take care of both sides of it.”

The Blue Jackets will want to see how this plays out, but it could give Jenner a chance to carve out a more prominent role.

“The key thing with (Jenner) is that I don’t think he has found his niche this year,” Tortorella said. “I figured it was going to take some time to get his game going. … I want him to grow into a role. With the injury to (Dubinsky), I think the road is there for him to take it.”

The Hurricanes (13-11-7) are trying to find roles and more solid traction coming off a six-game road trip, which concluded with Friday night’s 5-4 overtime triumph at Buffalo.

“Some huge character-building moments,” Hurricanes forward Derek Ryan said. “It’s huge for the morale from the trip and then to go back home.”

This will mark Carolina’s first home game since Dec. 2. Then the Hurricanes are back on the road for two more games, so this is the lone home outing during a nine-game stretch.

“Obviously, we’re striving to get on a roll here,” veteran Carolina goalie Cam Ward said.

Ward appeared in back-to-back games for the first time this season by winning twice this week.

If he’s in the lineup against Columbus, it would be his first home game since he reached the 300-victory milestone Tuesday night at Vegas. He’s one of seven players with at least 300 victories with the same team.

“It’s something that I’m proud of,” Ward said. “You look at that list, it’s a pretty exceptional list. Hopefully, I can keep climbing up that list. … A lot of people help you get that point. You’ve got to give your team an opportunity to win. Sometimes you have better nights than others. I’ve embraced the role that I’ve been given.”

Ward is now considered the team’s No. 2 goalie behind Scott Darling, so the frequency of his appearances has declined.

“Knowing you might not get as many starts, but I’m still having fun and enjoying it,” Ward said.

Meanwhile, Tortorella said he likes the aggressiveness shown by his Columbus defensemen on the offensive end.

Some of that could come from defenseman Zach Werenski, who recorded two points Thursday night.

“I’m just happy to get the chances right now,” Werenski said. “We talk about being offensive and being aggressive. It’s always nice when you can have ‘D’ contributing.”

Columbus is 4-1-1 in the last six meetings with Carolina, which hasn’t scored a power-play goal against the Blue Jackets in the past four matchups.

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