Coming off the first playoff appearance in franchise history and vying for the Central Division lead, the Columbus Blue Jackets can certainly be considered a successful franchise.
Business, however, doesn't appear as good as it seems.
In their first home game following a report that calls into question the team's long-term survival in Columbus, the Blue Jackets begin a four-game homestand Saturday night against the woeful Carolina Hurricanes, losers of a franchise-record 11 straight.
On Thursday, a business group indicated Columbus may have trouble keeping the team because it's been losing $12 million a year in the Ohio capital. Blue Jackets president Mike Priest said the team's current economic model features "significant disadvantages" and that it plans to work with public and private groups to find a solution.
Columbus entered the NHL as an expansion team in 2000 and was the last of the 30 clubs to clinch a postseason berth. However, the Blue Jackets have been in the bottom third in home attendance each of the last two seasons, averaging 15,183 in Nationwide Arena -- about 3,000 below capacity.
Through six home games so far, Columbus is averaging 15,401.
Now, the Blue Jackets (8-5-2) will be looking to snap a three-game home slide and facing the NHL's worst team appears to make that an easy task.
After allowing a total of three goals en route to a 3-0 start at home, the Blue Jackets have given up eight during an 0-1-2 skid as Steve Mason continues to struggle.
Called up from the minors in December, Mason was 33-20-7 with a 2.29 goals-against average and an NHL-high 10 shutouts to win the Calder Trophy. He's 6-4-2 with a 3.38 GAA this season and has yet to blank an opponent.
Mason won his only appearance against Carolina, stopping 26 shots in a 5-1 victory Feb. 14.
Columbus' home woes also could end if Raffi Torres continues his hot streak. Hours after the report was released, Torres had his second straight two-goal game on the road in a 4-3 win at Atlanta.
Torres already has eight goals after scoring 12 in 51 games last season, his first with Columbus after spending the previous four with Edmonton. He has one assist in five regular-season games against Carolina, but notched a goal and three assists for the Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup finals won by the Hurricanes in seven games.
After roughly five weeks, Carolina (2-10-3) has watched its season spin out of control. A two-goal lead eventually became a 3-2 loss Friday to nearly-as-bad Toronto and extended the Hurricanes' slide.
No team has dropped 12 straight in a single season since Edmonton went 0-11-1 from Feb. 25-March 21, 2007.
"Our effort has been better, and we've got more offensive confidence, we're just not finishing," Carolina coach Paul Maurice told the team's official Web site. "That's the painful part. In our last two games we've generated more even though we haven't had a healthy lineup."
Eric Staal and Ray Whitney -- the Hurricanes' top offensive threats -- missed the game with upper-body injuries. Their status for this contest is unknown.
In addition to being last in the overall standings, Carolina has scored the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference (30) and failed to convert any of its last 25 power plays. The Hurricanes are 0-6-2 while being oustcored 34-14 on the road.
Cam Ward, a 39-game winner in 2008-09, is 0-5-2 on the road.