After a 0-4 road trip, the Jackets are feeling pressure from their coach, from their fans, and from the whiteboard in the locker room showing them just how close - and yet so far- they are from the playoff picture. With the Phoenix Coyotes coming into town on the second night of a back to back, they hope to find some solace and a bit of punch after a long, frustrating week, and to right the ship with a win in front of home fans who are increasingly skeptical that this bunch will be able to do much over the second half of the season.
The Coyotes beat St. Louis 4-3 last night in a bit of a barn burner, putting them back into the playoff picture, and pushing the current bar to 49 points. If the Jackets are going to push themselves back into the hunt, tonight needs to be a win, and it needs to be a win in regulation against a team that should be feeling some travel fatigue this evening. Could be a tough order, given their inconsistency of late.
Keys To The Game:
- Home Ice - The Jackets currently have a winning streak at home, while the Coyotes have a two game streak on the road. It's hard to say if there will be a big crowd tonight, given the severe weather predicted today, but if the Jackets can get the building behind them, they need to use that to help push the Coyotes out the door.
- The All Important First Goal - Phoenix is 16-2-5 when scoring first, and 4-11-4 if scored on. The Jackets had a pretty good early match with the Coyotes last week, but collapsed in the third period after rallying back for a tie. Tonight, they need to get that first goal and keep rolling, preventing the Coyotes from building momentum. Phoenix is without Ilya Bryzgalov tonight - and Jason LaBarbara, though he's had some OK games against Columbus, is not the same caliber goalie. Take advantage of that.
- Rick Nash - After going scoreless in his past 12 games, Nash found a pair of goals Saturday against LA. We need Nash to keep producing - if he gets hot, it improves the team's chances dramatically.
Between Snowpocalypse, fan apathy, and an uncertain locker room, it's hard to predict what will happen tonight, but there are reasons to see opportunity, particularly since the Coyotes will be on short rest while the Jackets had a couple of days to get their heads together. Is it a lot to hang on to? Probably not, but you take what you can get in an uncertain world.
Blue Jackets Information:
Columbus Blue Jackets
| Jason LaBarbara
Tidbit: Once upon a time, people in prison were sold for cigarettes. Now they're sold for hostess pastries. Maybe we should package Mike Commodore with a crate of zingers and see if a GM takes advantage.