COLUMBUS OH - FEBRUARY 11: Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets chases as Peter Forsberg #21 of the Colorado Avalanche passes the puck past Grant Clitsome #14 of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period on February 11 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
OK, so maybe it's a bit of a cop out to go for the Gil Scott-Heron joke, or to predict a revolution compared to the past three games of the young season, but it just feels like the Jackets have a real chance to get their season back on track tonight - during the only game this year which will not appear on any form of television.
With news this morning that Jeff Carter missed the morning skate due to illness, his status is questionable [edit - Carter is going to go tonight, per a report on 97.1], but Portzline has confirmed that Ryan Johansen will play tonight regardless, and that Steve Mason will be starting in net against Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov, who was traded from the Capitals to the Avs earlier this year, has never faced the Jackets in his career and is currently 1-1-0 on the young season, losing in the home opener to Detroit before turning around and blanking Boston on Monday.
The Jackets struggled against Colorado last season, but a big reason for that was the defense's difficulty in adjusting to their team speed. While guys like Radek Martinek and Vinny Prospal may still not be able to match them on pure foot speed, the addition of David Savard, Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, and Johansen all should provide a bit more ability to fight fire with fire.
Derick Brassard looked good on the second line Monday, as did the "Rat Line" of Calvert, Atkinson, and MacKenzie, but I'm expecting them to put Johansen with Calvert and Atkinson tonight, moving MacKenzie into a checking winger slot. If Carter can't go, I'd expect to see Johansen put between Umberger and Brassard, and Vermette moved up to pair with Nash and Vinny, but all things are subject to change...
(Note: Lines are assuming Carter plays)
Columbus Blue Jackets
('10-'11: 34-35-13, 81 Points; 5th division, 13th conference)
|Derek MacKenzie||Samuel Pahlsson||Derek Dorsett|
|Matt Calvert||Cam Atkinson|
|Fedor Tyutin||Radek Martinek|
|Marc Methot||Grant Clitsome|
|Kris Russell||David Savard|
('10-'11: 30-44-8, 68 Points; 4th in Division, 14th in Conference)
|Peter Mueller||Milan Hejduk|
By The Numbers ('10-'11 Season)
COL - 2.70 (18th)
CBJ - 2.56 G/G (24th)
COL - 3.50 GA/G (30th)
CBJ - 3.05 GA/G (26th)
COL - 18.5% (11th)
CBJ - 14.0% (29th)
COL - 76.1% (30th)
CBJ - 80.3% (22nd)
Keys to the game:
- Shoot And Score - The Jackets have been generating a boatload of chances, but they haven't cashed in. On the other side of the coin, Colorado has scored exactly one goal so far this season. If they Jackets can deliver a 3 goal performance, I think they can take this one home in the W column.
- Beat The Blue Line - While Colorado has some good forwards in Matt Duchene, Paul Stasny, and second overall pick Landeskog, I find their D suspect. We know all about the potential weaknesses in Jan Hejda's game, Erik Johnson has been good offensively but struggled on the D side of things in St. Louis, and Ryan O'Byrne remains most known for scoring on his own empty net. This is a defense our offense can and should be able to make major impacts on. Let's see what happens.
- Special Perfomances - The Colorado PK is currently at 100%, best in the NHL, through 2 games. I think we'd all like to see that stat broken tonight, but more importantly, we need the Jackets PK unit to get themselves on track - they've given up a PPG in each game so far this season.
Hope to see you down at the game tonight - Go Jackets!