After an up and down home stand, the Jackets are back on the road for their first West Coast trip of the season - three games in four nights that will see them face the Kings, Ducks, and Sharks before heading back East. That means it's time to put on an extra pot of coffee tonight if you're interested in catching this one live.
The Kings are currently the top both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference, and they're holding court at home with a perfect 8-0 record to date as part of their best start in franchise history.
The Jackets, meanwhile, are 4-1 on the road, and though the team has been 6-11-1 in their history out in LA, they're actually 3-3 in the last three seasons. At the risk of sounding flip, I'll take a 50/50 chance when we go into an opponent's barn.
Meanwhile, there are more questions than answers surrounding this game. CBJ head coach Scott Arniel has been cagy on who his starting goalie tonight will be, refusing to answer questions in the media. With the team not holding a morning skate, unless something should leak early, we probably won't know who's starting until tonight's warmups. Mike Commodore is expected to be back in the lineup tonight, replacing an ill Anton Stralman (though reports this morning state that Stralman is improving and may be a game time decision), while Rick Nash is back on the top line after sitting out last Friday's game with a mild groin injury. On the fourth line, it appears Derek MacKenzie will be out, so we're likely to see a combination of Kyle Wilson, Andrew Murray, and Jared Boll.
Across the bench, the Kings have more than a few questions of their own to answer, starting with Brayden Schenn. The rookie forward and former teammate of CBJ prospect Matt Calvert had a respectable start, with two assists and a -1 rating in 8 games, but the team announced yesterday that they intended to send Schenn down to the AHL for a conditioning stint...which is now on hold, as it is not clear if he can be sent to the AHL while still eligible to return to Major Junior hockey. Yet, if they send Schenn down to the WHL again, he can't be called up for the rest of the season. Odd little dilemma.
The Kings are also looking to rebound after a solid 6-3 thumping at the hands of San Jose that cost them top line winger Scott Parse, who will miss 3-4 months with a torn labrum. They're also down free agency acquisitions Alexei Ponikarovsky and Willie Mitchell. With the way the Kings have been rolling, none of these seem to have slowed them down much, but they're still openings the Jackets may be able to take advantage of.
Keys To The Game:
- Get In The Slot - If you haven't taken a look at the post on the Kings' loss in San Jose, go do it for a minute. Notice the graphic that shows where all 6 San Jose goals came from. Now, admittedly, the Jackets are going to be facing Jonathan Quick, not Jonathan Bernier, but even the best goaltending struggles when opponents get chances to set up rebounds and second chance opportunities in front of the net - and that's how the Jackets found several of their goals against St. Louis, 2 goals against Minnesota, and the lone goal against Colorado. As awesome as it is when the team can out-skill an opponent on a breakaway or an odd man rush, hard work is a lot more reliable.
- Covering Fire - One of the areas the coaching staff stressed in the break between last Friday's game and this evening was the need for the team's defense to start shooting from the blue line to help create opportunities. With the current plan to move Derick Brassard to the first unit power play point, and installing the returning Commodore as a PPQB on the second unit, the team needs to see if they can create more offense from the back end, and take some pressure off the forwards to constantly maintain possession. LA takes an average of 12 PIMs a game, so the Jackets should get chances to show off what they've been learning.
- Back to Basics - Regardless of who goes tonight in goal, the team needs to get back to the same fundamentals that were so successful on the road against Atlanta, Montreal, and Chicago. LA isn't quite the speed demon team that Colorado is, but they're still formidable, and guys like Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty are likely to be stacking up against the top lines all night, while the D will have to try to stop Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth, and Justin Williams. The Kings have a ton of talent, and they're looking to prove that 6-3 loss was a fluke.
|Game Time: 10:43pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: 97.1FM WFAN
|Blue Jackets vs Kings coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: Jewels From The Crown
Blue Jackets Information:
|Rick Nash||Derick Brassard
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Nikita Filatov|
|Chris Clark||Samuel Pahlsson||Derek Dorsett|
|Kyle Wilson||Andrew Murray||Jared Boll|
|Rostislav Klesla||Marc Methot|
|Jan Hejda||Mike Commodore|
|Kris Russell||Fedor Tyutin|
|Steve Mason (?)|
Mathieu Garon (?)
|Brad Richardson||Anze Kopitar||Dustin Brown|
|Ryan Smyth||Jarret Stoll||Justin Williams|
|Dwight King||Michael Handzus||Wayne Simmonds|
|Kyle Clifford||Trevor Lewis||Kevin Westgarth|
|Rob Scuderi||Drew Doughty|
|Matt Greene||Jack Johnson|
|Davis Drewiske||Peter Harrold|
Maybe it's just sour grapes, but remember: In 2005, Don Boyd wanted to draft Anze Kopitar. Doug MacLean overruled him and went with Gilbert Brule.
Yeah, that sure worked out great, didn't it.