Game 32 Preview: Begin Again

The Jackets broke a five game losing skid, just a little over two weeks ago, with a victory over the Dallas Stars.

Now, after a deeply frustrating Western Canada road trip, the Jackets are back at Nationwide Arena, and that same Stars club rolls back in.

Can lightning strike twice?

Essentials:

Game Time: 7:00 pm EST
TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 WFAN
Stars vs Blue Jackets coverage
Opponent's Blog: Defending Big D 

Once again, the Stars are a mere four points ahead of the Jackets in the standings, yet one team sits in the 3rd seed in the West, while the other sits just outside the playoff picture. Those points from Vancouver and Calgary have kept the Jackets' hopes alive. Tonight is a chance to give them a shot of adrenaline, and start the pre-holiday home stand on the right foot.

For the Jackets, this is their 17th home game, and lost in the frustration of recent weeks is the fact that they have pulled their home record to 8-7-1, compared to their rough start. Admittedly, that also came at the cost of going 0-3-2 in their last five road games, but it's still worth appreciating that the team has become more comfortable on home ice.

For the Stars, it's their 16th road game, where they find themselves 7-7-1....the one charity point coming in their shootout loss against Mathieu Garon.

How to play this Stars team hasn't changed - they're still dangerous in tight games, and the Jackets will need to control themselves against Dallas' excellent corps of agitators. They will need to contain Brad Richards, and to shut down James Neal, Loui Eriksson, and Jamie Benn.

The Jackets know that Derek MacKenzie will be on the shelf, but Rostislav Klesla is also a question mark for tonight - Rusty left the Edmonton game with an unspecified lower body injury, and appeared to be having some issues with his skating. The team has said he would be a game time decision, so it doesn't sound too serious, but nothing has been confirmed. If he doesn't go tonight, Anton Stralman would be back in after sitting for the last several games as a healthy scratch.

Meanwhile, Derek Dorsett is likely to be back in the lineup after X-rays on his injured foot came back clean, and he spent some time rehabbing it following his injury in Vancouver, and Kristian Huselius will be back in the lineup again after his hat trick performance Thursday.

Garon gets the start tonight for Columbus, while Dave Rook is in town to give Steve Mason some good old fashioned head-shrinking, but Dallas coach Marc Crawford is being....rather cryptic about his starter, refusing to say if it will be Raycroft or Lehtonen. The boys at Defending Big D have a poll on the subject...the remark about the Jackets being a team they're worried about competing with for the lower playoff seeds is a bit of a backhanded compliment, but I'll still take it.

Keys To The Game:

 

  • Team Defense - The Jackets did a fantastic job of bottling up the Stars and Rangers, then got away from the gritty, well executed defense they played at home on the last road trip, and suffered for it. Some of that may be placed at the feet of Kristian Huselius' return, as Juice isn't what you'd call the world's best checking player, but the entire team needs to commit to the forecheck and denying good opportunities.
  • No More Charity - If the Jackets really feel a need to give this week, they can dump their pocket change in the Salvation Army kettles like everyone else. With the West as tight as it is, giving away a free point is unacceptable if they want to make up ground, not just keep pace.
  • Cash In - In Vancouver and Edmonton, the Jackets out-chanced their hosts early, but could not bury the puck past the goaltenders. They need to find the holes and get the puck in the back of the net - scoring early on Dallas visibly put them off of their game, and that's an advantage the Jackets need to exploit this time.

Blue Jackets Information:

 

Team Page  Schedule
Roster Stats

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Rick Nash Derick Brassard Jakub Voracek 
Kristian Huselius Antoine Vermette R.J. Umberger
Ethan Moreau Samuel Pahlsson Derek Dorsett
Tom Sestito Kyle Wilson Jared Boll

 

Jan Hejda Anton Stralman
Marc Methot Fedor Tyutin
Mike Commodore Kris Russell


Mathieu Garon
Steve Mason


 Dallas Stars

 

Loui Eriksson Brad Richards James Neal
Brenden Morrow Mike Ribeiro Jamie Benn
Steve Ott Adam Burish Brandon Segal 
Brian Sutherby Tom Wandell Aaron Gagnon

 

Nicklas Grossman Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley Jeff Woywitka
  Matt Niskanen Karlis Skrastins

 

Tidbit: Remember, as rough as the last week was? It ain't that bad.

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