After a successful swing through Florida with their fathers, the Jackets returned home for a brief respite, then packed their gear and headed out to St. Louis for a return to the Western Conference and another matchup with a Central Division rival.
Though the two games so far between these teams have not been close affairs, with Columbus' 8-1 demolition of the Blues at Nationwide, and the Blues returning the favor 4-1 in December, the team's recent improved play against the Central Division is encouraging, and the fact that the Jackets are on a 4 game point streak makes this game interesting. If the Blue Jackets can continue to play well, while the Blues continue to struggle (3-5-2 in their last 10 games, including an OT loss to Detroit on Thursday), I think this could be another big step in the right direction.
|Game Time: 8:00 pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: WFAN-FM (97.1)
|Blue Jackets vs Blues coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: St. Louis Game Time
As part of the last week, the Jackets have performed a few internal shuffles that appeared to pay off in Florida - namely the return of Andrew Murray and Derek MacKenzie to the lineup, while Chris Clark was a healthy scratch, and Kyle Wilson was returned to Springfield in the hopes of bringing him more consistent ice time to help him get back to his early season groove.
Meanwhile, Matt Calvert and Grant Clitsome continue to impress, and indications point to both receiving more playing time - particularly Calvert, who seems likely to see more time on the second line as Kristian Huselius struggles.
Keys To The Game:
- Swagger - With both the Blues and the Jackets on a slide after their early season success, the Jackets need to march in with a bit of a swing in their step. Use that confidence, project it onto the ice, and get to the habits that we know will work well against the Blues (aggressive forecheck, exploiting the D, etx.)
- Baby Daddy - Two days after the birth of his daughter, it's back to the grind for R. J. Umberger, who scored the game winner against the Panthers. Umby has developed a bit of history with St. Louis, and it's pretty clear he gets himself (and the room) pumped up for these games. With his success at finding the puck around the net, and Halak's habit of giving up rebounds in the slot, I think he could be poised for a big night.
- Attack Halak - The biggest difference in the Jackets' win earlier this year vs. the loss in early December was that the team didn't get into the slot to shoot and create rebounds - too many chances came from lower percentages on the outside or shots that drifted wide or high. Halak is still damn good, but we know how to beat him. The team needs to put as much pressure as possible on him early.
- Oshie. -Returning after being injured in the 8-1 blowout, T.J. Oshie is back in the Blues' lineup and ready to contribute again. I have no doubt he'll be looking for some payback, particularly against Jake Voracek, who laid the hit that put him out. If he retaliates, the Jackets need to just skate away, and then use the power play to get even.
The Jackets need to win in the division. More wins against St. Louis and Nashville would go a long way, especially if they can keep pulling extra points out against Chicago and Detroit.
Blue Jackets Information:
|Rick Nash||Derick Brassard||Jakub Voracek|
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Kristian Huselius|
|Derek Dorsett||Samuel Pahlsson||Andrew Murray|
|Matt Calvert||Derek MacKenzie||Jared Boll|
|Jan Hejda||Fedor Tyutin|
|Rostislav Klesla||Marc Methot|
|Grant Clitsome||Kris Russell|
|Alex Steen||David Backes||Brad Boyes|
|Vladimir Sobotka||Patrik Berglund||T.J. Oshie|
|Brad Winchester||Jay McClement||Matt D'Agostini|
|B.J. Crombeen||Phili McRae|
|Eric Brewer||Erik Johnson|
|Ian Cole||Alex Pietrangelo|
Tidbit: Should you meet a Blues fan today, or any other divisional opponent, it is completely acceptable to show them your War Face.