After a frustrating loss to the Buffalo Sabres where the team hardly appeared to have shown up, I don't envy Scott Arniel today.
Holding a team meeting this morning in lieu of a standard morning skate, the head coach must attempt to forcibly pull his team out of their struggles and prepare them to face the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners of their last 8 games, and Sidney Crosby, who has taken over the NHL's scoring race after a dominant game vs. the Thrashers on Thursday.
|Game Time: 7:00pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: 97.1FM WFAN
|Penguins vs Blue Jackets coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: Pensburgh
All indications are that Nikita Filatov will return tonight, and I would expect the top six to be jumbled accordingly. I'm supporting the idea of putting Nash back with Jake and Brass - the temporary boost found in the Nashville game by shuffling the top six appeared to evaporate yesterday night.
Steve Mason is expected to start in goal, and since Jared Boll is facing a disciplinary review for his hit on Shoane Morrissonn, I expect him to be unavailable for tonight's game, possibly putting Andrew Murray back in the lineup.
Keys To The Game:
- Keep It Simple: The Jackets have been at their most effective when they play simple, North-South hockey and keep themselves moving. Stopping, hesitating, or going back to making a bunch of passes rather than attacking the net will leave them buried.
- Temporary Amnesia: The Jackets need to forget that the last week happened, and play like they did on the last West Coast swing - perhaps the quick turnaround will help.
- Step Up: With Marc Methot still questionable, the team's defense will need to juggle the job of shutting down Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Not a small task at the best of times. In addition, the team needs their secondary scoring, badly. If Kyle Wilson stays in rather than inserting Murray, perhaps it's time to recombine him with Chris Clark, to see if they can recapture their early season chemistry?
- Ride The Tiger: If the team can get on top of the Pens and hold on, there's actually some good reason to hope there - the Pens are 4-5-1 when trailing after one period, and 0-5-1 when trailing after two.
I won't pretend to know what's going on in the room, but it's clear that the team wasn't engaged last night until things were out of hand. I have to wonder what will happen in the team meeting, and what will be said.
I have a bad feeling about this game. I'd really like to be proved wrong. Sometimes the best way to get the taste of a loss to a struggling opponent out of your mouth is to go out and play over your heads against an opponent who probably should beat you, on paper. The question is, will they?
Blue Jackets Information:
Columbus Blue Jackets
|Rick Nash||Derick Brassard||Jakub Voracek|
|Nikita Filatov||Antoine Vermette||R.J. Umberger|
|Ethan Moreau||Samuel Pahlsson||Chris Clark|
|Andrew Murray||Derek MacKenzie||Derek Dorsett|
|Jan Hejda||Anton Stralman|
|Rostislav Klesla||Fedor Tyutin|
|Mike Commodore||Kris Russell|
|Chris Kunitz||Sidney Crosby||Pascal Dupuis|
|Matt Cooke||Evgeni Malkin||Max Talbot|
|Chris Conner||Mark Letestu||Tyler Kennedy|
|Mike Rupp||Craig Adams||Arron Asahm|
|Paul Martin||Zbynek Michalek|
|Brooks Orpik||Kris Letang|
|Alex Goligoski||Deryk Engelland|
Tidbit: Marc-Andre Fleury has never won a game vs. the Minnesota Wild. They are the only team in the NHL he has never recorded a victory against.