Jackets, Stars renew acquaintances
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets meet for the second time this month Thursday night at Nationwide Arena.
Since the Stars were beaten 2-1 by the Blue Jackets in Dallas on Jan. 2, they've won four of five games, with a six-day break in the middle.
Dallas (26-17-3) won back-to-back games at the start of a four-game road trip this week, taking down the Boston Bruins 3-2 in overtime Monday night and the Detroit Red Wings 4-2 on Tuesday at the second night of a back-to-back.
"We've got confidence (now), that's for sure," Stars defenseman John Klingberg said.
The Blue Jackets (25-18-3) return from the NHL-mandated five-day break on a two-game losing streak, falling to two of the worst teams in the league. They lost 3-1 to the Sabres in Buffalo last Thursday and 5-2 at home to the Vancouver Canucks the following day.
In the Stars' win at Detroit, Jason Spezza bounced back from being a healthy scratch the night before to score two power-play goals, including the winner. Spezza had been struggling for several weeks but responded to the tough-love move made by Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock.
"Well, I was not happy about it and didn't like the decision, but you have to get through that and just work, move forward," Spezza said.
"Obviously, I haven't produced what I wanted to, but I think I can play a bigger role and, hopefully, this is a step towards getting there and getting confidence of (Hitchcock) and just me getting some momentum off this."
Klingberg was happy to see Spezza have a big game after the benching.
"It's huge, it's really huge for us," Klingberg said. "I don't really know what to say, but I feel really happy about him getting back into the lineup and score like that. We all know how good he is and he responded really good to the scratch."
Klingberg certainly hasn't been slumping. He had two assists against the Red Wings to give him at least one point in eight consecutive games, the first Stars defenseman with a streak that long since Sergei Zubov in 2006.
Selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game later this month, Klingberg leads all defensemen in points by a wide margin with 43 in 46 games.
"I think I play a good all-around, and part of my game is scoring points, and I feel good and have good confidence," Klingberg said.
The Blue Jackets, hit hard by injuries while going 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, made a move that they hope will help their depth. They picked up veteran Jussi Jokinen off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old Jokinen is expected to be slotted into the lineup right away. In 32 combined games this season for the Edmonton Oilers and the Kings, he has one goal and five assists.
Two seasons ago with the Florida Panthers, Jokinen produced 60 points.
"We're doing this to get a guy who can step into our lineup right now," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "We need players. We know very well he's had a great career, and he can help us."
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella recalled having Jokinen on his team 10 years ago when they were both with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He said Jokinen might end up playing center in Columbus.
"Smart player, good teammate, has put up points in the National Hockey League," Tortorella said. "I'm not sure what's gone on the past year. He's kind of bounced around a little bit. I asked him, when I talked to him this afternoon, 'Does he have any gas in the tank?' He's ready to play."
The Blue Jackets officially added another player to their injury list on Wednesday. Forward Sonny Milano, who has eight goals and five assists in 35 games, is expected to be out 4-to-6 weeks with a torn oblique suffered in a Jan. 8 game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I think he's broken through," Tortorella said of Milano. "Is he a full-fledged National Hockey Leaguer? He still has some work to do, with the consistency of everything, so it (stinks) that he gets hurt."
Forward Tyler Motte was recalled from Cleveland of the American Hockey League to take Milano's place on the roster.
Motte has three goals and four points in 29 games with the Blue Jackets this season.
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