After two frustrating and humbling losses that capped a week where the team went 0-3-1, a Jackets team that was challenging for top in the West last Friday has fallen to eighth place, hanging onto a playoff spot by a tiebreaker.
To say this isn't where the team wants to be is an understatement, but it's worth considering that a single win tonight would rejuvenate them back to sixth in the standings, and a win on Thursday could push them back into fourth.
Facing a Dallas team that have won their past six games, there's no better way to get another winning streak started than snapping someone else's.
|Game Time: 7:00pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: 97.1FM WFAN
|Stars vs Blue Jackets coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: Defending Big D
It's unclear how, exactly, the Jackets will line up against the Stars, as Coach Scott Arniel and GM Scott Howson have promised "changes" to the lineup tonight, but also said that no trades are imminent, and that there will not be a callup from Springfield at this point. It sounds like musical chairs to me, but I am assuming that Kyle Wilson and Andrew Murray, who sat out Saturday's game, will be in the lineup. If they do, it seems entirely possible that Filatov will come back out (though in his defense, I thought he was far from the worst player on the ice Saturday night), and perhaps Jared Boll - he's gotten hammered in his last few fights, and if he's not adding offense right now, I'm not sure giving the other team motivation by fighting is a terribly good idea. (Though I'm loathe to mess much with the third line, as they were the sole source of offense that seemed to roll on shabbos, if lines are shuffled, what about recombining Wilson with Chris Clark? They found some excellent chemistry early on in the season.)
Anton Stralman was benched for Saturday's game with the return of Marc Methot, but given the way the defense as a whole did little to distinguish themselves, I'd call it possible that he might return after his healthy scratch.
There's one player, however, who is likely to be in the lineup and had this game circled on his calendar - Derek Dorsett.
If you don't recall why the chance to face the Stars would be significant for him, I point you to DBJ's excellent recap of why the Jackets should have no shortage of motivation tonight.
Edit: A late breaking edit - it looks like Mathieu Garon will start tonight. He's 6-6 in 12 starts vs. the Stars, with a 2.95 GAA and .901 save.
For the Stars....well, these aren't exactly the Stars we're used to. Loui Eriksson continues to be a quietly excellent performer, but much of their back end has turned over, and their goaltending tandem is a total refresh behind Kari Lehtonen and Andrew Raycroft. (And surprisingly, Lehtonen has turned out to be pretty good when not suffering from back issues.)
The biggest question for the Stars isn't on the ice - it's their ownership. With the team currently tied up in Tom Hicks' financial woes, they've been up for sale for most of the past two years, and while several suitors have been discussed in the media, nothing appears to be close. Compounding that issue is the fact that Brad Richards, once the subject of a mini-bidding war between the Stars and the Jackets at the trade deadline a few years ago, is now close to reaching free agency, and though he has said he'd like to remain in Dallas, it does not appear the Stars currently have the financial ability to offer him an extension at this time, while teams like the Leafs, Rangers, and Kings have all been discussed as possible destinations if he hits the market.
In the meantime, Richards has put his head down and ignored the whispers in the interest of delivering a career year - 11G, 19A and a +10 in 25 games so far.
Keys To The Game:
- Top To Bottom: The Jackets need their top six to get scoring, after being held off the sheet for the last two games. At the same time, the bulk of Dallas' offense has come from their top six, particularly the Eriksson - Richards - Neal line. Our checking lines MUST work to contain the Stars' top players, and create opportunities for our best players to shine.
- Pest Control: Give the frustrations for the team's PK against the Pens, it is vital that the team not give Dallas any more help than they already have. Players like Steve Ott, Adam Burish, and James Neal are all quite effective at drawing penalties - the Jackets need to keep them from putting the team off their game. Though I have no doubt that Derek Dorsett wants to give James Neal a piece of his mind, and his fists, better to achieve that through legal means...or at least goading Neal into starting the fight.
- Two Goals: Dallas has been dominating one goal games. In fact, they're 10-2-1 in one goal games. But they're 0-2 in games where the opponent gets a two goal lead, and 4-6-1 when their opponent scores first.
- Avoid OT: The Starts are 5-1 in extra time, including two shootout victories.
Blue Jackets Information:
Columbus Blue Jackets
|Rick Nash||Derick Brassard||Jakub Voracek|
|Kyle Wilson||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|
|Marc Methot||Kris Russell|
|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|
This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps.