NHL Hockey

Blue Jackets, sans Foligno, host struggling Senators

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Columbus Blue Jackets will close out 2018 against the Ottawa Senators on Monday night at Nationwide Arena without their captain.

The club announced Sunday that Nick Foligno will be away from the team to be with his 5-year-old daughter Milana, who will undergo heart surgery in Boston.

She was born in 2013 with a congenital heart defect and had surgery a few weeks later. She had battled a virus this fall and Foligno missed a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 17 to be with her while she was hospitalized.

Foligno, who has 10 goals and 10 assists in 37 games, will be back with the team as soon as possible, the club said.

In the meantime, the Blue Jackets (22-13-3) will try to bounce back from a 4-2 loss at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night in a game of missed opportunities.

The shot chart showed the Blue Jackets with 65 attempts against the Maple Leafs, but only 29 were on goal. Thus, Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella emphasized shooting accuracy in Sunday's practice.

"Before practice, I put the stat up on the board today," Tortorella said, according to the team's website. "Usually, when you're in practice, you hear pucks ringing off the boards and glass. I didn't hear many. I watched it very closely.

"The first shot we took in our shooting drill went wide, and then I don't think another one went wide. I didn't hear much noise on the boards.

"It may sound silly, but I do believe when you do bring focal points to the group and you put a little bit of pressure on concentrating on that part of it, I think they get it quickly."

Before Foligno left to be with his daughter, he said, "It's so crucial just to even get a puck on net. It creates a rebound. Even if a goalie makes a save, it's amazing how many times it pops back to you or you gain possession again."

During the Blue Jackets' five-game winning streak that ended Friday, they weren't exactly peppering the back of the net with pucks. In the last seven games, they've averaged 2.4 goals, but they kept beating opponents because of goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky's stellar play and winger Cam Atkinson's offensive contributions.

"We played hard, but right now goal scoring is a problem," Blue Jackets center Alexander Wennberg said. "We've got to score more goals. That's the focus right now."

The Senators (15-20-4) might provide a cure. The last-place team in the Atlantic Division is giving up an NHL-worst 3.93 goals per game.

On the flip side, the Senators possess the ability to generate goals at a rate of 3.15 per game. Mark Stone leads the team with 18 goals and 43 points and Matt Duchene is next with 15 goals and has 37 points -- one fewer than defenseman Thomas Chabot.

But the Senators are mired in a four-game losing streak and coach Guy Boucher decided at Sunday's workout before leaving for Columbus to break up his top line of Stone, Colin White and Brady Tkachuk.

Chris Tierney centered a line with Tkachuk and Stone. White moved to a wing with alongside Matt Duchene and Bobby Ryan, and winger Ryan Dzingel was placed on the fourth line with Tom Pyatt and Nick Paul.

"Those three guys (White, Stone and Tkachuk) have worked so hard and they're great to watch," Boucher said, "but we need to have a team. It's not that I wanted to split the line up, but I have to spread my hard-working elements throughout the lineup."

Ottawa is coming off a 3-2 loss at home to the Washington Capitals on Saturday in which it played without Chabot, who is out for three weeks after sustaining a shoulder injury on Friday night against the New York Islanders.

"Whether you're having a good season or not, it always (stinks) to be hurt," Chabot said, according to the Ottawa Sun. "It's part of the job. It always happens in hockey and you have to expect this. It is what it is and now we've got to look on the recovery road and hopefully be back as soon as possible."

Starting goaltender Craig Anderson also may miss Monday's game with a concussion and so the Blue Jackets could see rookie Marcus Hogberg in net.

"We're going into a barn that's hard to play in because (Columbus) is a very, very hard-working team," Boucher said. "We're not going to out-skill anybody. We don't have that. The minute we don't work harder than the opponent, we don't get on top."

Updated December 30, 2018

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