Today, the first part of our long seasonal nightmare comes to the end. After existing on a meager diet of ice cold vending machine water and press box popcorn for the past three weeks, James Wisniewski will stumble out of his cell, kiss the ice in gratitude, and lace up his skates for the first time as a free man. Washing away the pain of having to watch the team struggle while he sat from the specially barred and locked room on the press box level, it's time to shave off the long, scraggly beard, show off the prison tats he gave himself with a sharpie, and go through the well known movie montage of "going straight" by putting on a suit and filing a bunch of job applications as a former convict, getting rejected, and finally returning to Nationwide for tonight's game, going back to the only skills he can rely on.
After all, he got where he is by being who he is - and there's no stint in the joint long enough to change that.
In all honesty, Wiz has been practicing with the team all month, and started taking reps on the first PP unit and defensive pairing in practice last week, but it's fun to joke, and it's not like we've had a lot of good things to play around with lately.
The biggest challenge for the returning Wiz is going to be keeping that frustrated energy and enthusiasm in check - driving the play but not overstepping or performing another action to get him invited back into Shanahan Quinten. Nor should the rest of the defense step back and say "Oh, good, he's back." If anything, we need guys busting even harder, because now the clock is ticking - not just on the younger guys like John Moore and David Savard, but also for vets like Grant Clitsome, Kris Russell, and Aaron Johnson who could all be considered for moves as guys get healthy. The team has already said that one of the rookies is likely to be scratched tonight - I'm guessing Moore, but if that changes we'll update you.
Finally, despite the fact that yes, this is Detroit and yes, this IS going to be a nasty game, the Red Wings may have given us a bit of a gift. Jimmy Howard will not be with the Wings tonight, having gone to his wife's bedside for the birth of their first child. Congrats to the Howard family, and more importantly, that means Ty Conklin is starting. In addition to giving up 7 goals in his Saturday start vs. the Capitals, Conks has a 3.06 lifetime GAA vs. Columbus and an .895 SV%. It would be nice to take advantage of that.
Mike Commodore is still on IR, so we can expect, basically, the same lineup out of the motor city. Here we go.
(Note: Lines are based on combinations used in practice yesterday and are subject to change)
Columbus Blue Jackets
(0-7-1, 1 Point; 5th division, 15th conference)
|Vinny Prospal||Derick Brassard||Rick Nash|
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Ryan Johansen|
|Maksim Mayorov||Samuel Pahlsson||Derek Dorsett|
|Alexandre Giroux||Derek MacKenzie||Cody Bass|
|Fedor Tyutin||James Wisniewski|
|Kris Russell||Grant Clitsome|
|David Savard||Aaron Johnson|
Detroit Red Wings
(5-1-0, 10 Points; 1st Division, 3rd Conference)
|Henrik Zetterberg||Pavel Datsyuk||Danny Cleary|
|Jiri Hudler||Valtteri Filppula||Johan Franzen|
|Justin Abdelkader||Darren Helm||Todd Bertuzzi|
|Tomas Holmstrom||Cory Emmerton||Andrew Miller|
|Nicklas Lidstrom||Ian White|
|Niklas Kronwall||Brad Stuart|
|Jonathan Ericsson||Jakub Kindl|
By The Numbers
CBJ - 2.12 G/G (t25th)
DET - 3.17 G/G (4th)
CBJ - 3.50 GA/G (29th)
DET - 2.33 GA/G (10th)
CBJ - 10.5% (26th)
DET - 17.0% (12th)
CBJ - 64.3% (30th)
DET - 73.7% (27th)
A little surprised at Detroit's PK? A lot of that was from the Washington game, while their PP improvements, sadly, are mostly courtesy of us.
If there's some good news, it's that the Jackets home PK is actually dangerously close to respectable at 84.6% - it's the road PK that is killing them. The Wings PP is actually slightly better on the road than in the Joe so far this season, so it could be a wash. Perhaps the best solution is to simply stay out of the box and try to force Detroit into making the first mistake - not so unlikely as you might think. Detroit has been whistled for 21 minor penalties and 2 majors in 6 games, plus one bench minor. That means the Jackets are pretty likely to see three or four man advantages. Perhaps with some extra firepower on the PP, they'll have the opportunity to capitalize on them.
The keys to this game are simple:
- Play Smart
- Score more goals than the other guy.
Bring home a win, and they will love you for it. Selah.