Riding a 5 game point streak, and looking to throw themselves back into the playoff race with two more points tonight (which could potentially move them into 10th place, three points back of an idle Colorado), this is a game where the Jackets need to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Anaheim Ducks. After all, they'll have the all star break to recover afterwards.
The problem, as it were, is that the Ducks are currently one of the hottest teams in the West, riding a 7-3-0 streak through January. Jonas Hiller, who will be headed to Raleigh as one of the ASG goaltenders, has been a big part of their recent success.
Can the Jackets solve Hiller tonight, and keep building momentum for a stretch run?
|Game Time: 7:00 pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: WWCD-FM (102.5)
|Ducks vs Blue Jackets coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: Anaheim Calling
Though Antoine Vermette (illness) and Rusty Klesla (injury) did take maintenance days from practice yesterday, both are expected to go tonight, and all indications are that the team will keep going with the same lineup that delivered comeback wins in Florida and St. Louis this past week.
For the Ducks, I would normally call the loss of Ryan Getzlaf a blow to them, but they've gone 8-3-0 while he's been out of the lineup. They've simply shouldered the loss and kept driving - and the Jackets will need to push back hard tonight.
Keys To The Game:
- Power Plays - The Jackets' power play has improved by leaps and bounds since Grant Clitsome joined the squad from Springfield, turning in a 20% conversion rate and finally stopping the slow bleed of demoralizing shorthanded goals that characterized much of late December and early January. Meanwhile, while the Ducks have actually been outscored badly 5-on-5 of late, their power play is the second best in the NHL at a scorching 23.7% for the season.
- Get On Top - Though the team has done a great job of counter-punching in their last several games, it would go a long way for the Jackets tonight if they can get a lead and extend it right off the bat, rather than having to work off a deficit.
- Teemu - The Finnish Flash has been a consistent thorn in the Jackets' side, with 16 goals and 17 assists against the Jackets in 31 career games. Shutting him down tonight would take away a valuable weapon from the Ducks, but don't expect him to make it easy - Selanne has racked up almost a point a game pace (6G 14A) on the road so far this year.
- Home Cooking - Though the Ducks have been great this month, they're actually fairly average on the road (10-13-3). The Jackets have managed to turn home ice back into an asset after a rough start to the season, so it would be great to see them use the home crowd to their advantage tonight to give themselves an edge. On the other hand, some reports today are that the recently departed "Disney On Ice" show may have caused some issues with the rink at Nationwide, so don't be surprised of there's some odd bounces and funky surfaces...at least the boys had some time to get used to the conditions.
I doubt this will be an easy game - both coaching staffs will be hammering on their players not to look ahead to the vacations or ASG promotions they'll be leaving for all too soon after tonight's game. It's an opportunity for both teams to set the tone for the remainder of the season, and I am sure that messages will be sent and received from both benches. But the Jackets have been rolling, so why not push it for one more game? Maximum efforts for maximum rewards.
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|
|Brandon McMillan||Bobby Ryan||Corey Perry|
|Jason Blake||Saku Koivu||Teemu Selanne|
|Matt Beleskey||Maxim Lapierre||Joffrey Lupul|
|Dan Sexton||Todd Marchant|
|Toni Lydman||Lubomir Visnovsky|
|Andy Sutton||Luca Sbisa|
Tidbit: Anaheim has one of the team's largest percentages at Finns by Volume. However, George Parros does not count against this total, as he is only a Viking when asleep.