Game 56 Preview: Tin Stars & Stale Popcorn

It's one of the rarer events for the Blue Jackets today - an afternoon matinee game. Flying into Dallas yesterday, the team adjusted not only to the time zone, but to a shortened preparation schedule for the game, which kicks off at 3pm EST. 

It makes me think of the early afternoon / late morning cowboy films at the old Westerville AMC. $1 tickets, cheap popcorn (mostly left over from the night before), tons of sugar, and the good guys always shot straight, while the bad guys would get what was coming to them by the end of the flick.

If only things were so simple in the NHL.

Essentials:
Game Time: 3:00 pm EST
TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 WFAN-FM
Blue Jackets vs Stars coverage
Opponent's Blog: Defending Big D 

Is there a bigger surprise in the West this year than Dallas? While their lead on the Pacific division is currently a razor thin margin, the fact that they're IN the lead of the division is something nobody expected, given all their turnover and the changes in net. 

The Jackets, however, have continued to play them hard, with one shootout win earlier this season, and a highly contested loss on home ice that was as much about the questionable officiating as any effort from the players. As usual, they've been high intensity, physical affairs - the sort of games that have sparked a bit of a rivalry between the two clubs, even if things aren't as generally hate-fueled as the tilts with St. Louis or Nashville. 

With Derek Dorsett out of the lineup temporarily, Andrew Murray will take his spot on the third line, and it remains to be seen if John Moore will go today, or if Anton Stralman will stay in the lineup after several games of improved effort. Mathieu Garon got a bit of a surprise start on Friday, but do they stay with Garon another night, or give Steve Mason another chance to shine?

With Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson leading the way, Dallas' offense is a potent one, and they've been getting it done at home - the team is 17-7-5 at home, compared to a more pedestrian 14-11-1 on the road.  The Stars had a brief four game losing skid recently, but rallied to beat the Blackhawks on Friday in a shootout, coming all the way back from a 3-0 deficit in the third period. 

Despite missing some important bodies from their lineup (most notably Jamie Benn, James Neal, and Krys Barch), they've brought up guys like Tom Wandell and Tomas Vincour, and signed former Jacket Jason Williams to help fill out their lineup.

Keys To The Game:

  • Bang and Bump - With much of Dallas' forward core dinged up, the Jackets need to put a lot of pressure on their top line. While Andrew Murray will have to step up his game a bit as he replaces Derek Dorsett on the primary checking line, they'll need to take the ice away from Richards and Eriksson the same way they shut down Colorado on Friday.
  • In Chaos, There Is Opportunity - It's not a coincidence that a lot of the Jackets' scoring comes from making the best of turnovers and working around the net. Outside of perhaps the top line, we just don't have the guys to make beautiful sharp angle shots and lightning quick passing plays work reliably. But hard work pays off, and several of the goals the team has scored against Lehtonen and similar goalies this year have been from loose pucks and rebounds.
  • Unload and Reload - The Stars have been guilty of allowing a LOT of rubber to get to their goaltenders, and the Jackets have been putting a lot of shots on net lately. The team has already set a record for 40+ shot games this season - another one tonight could easily pay dividends.

The Jackets took care of their business on Friday, and got a little closer to the playoff picture. This is another opportunity to take things into their own hands with 15 days to the trade deadline. 

Blue Jackets Information:

Team Page  Schedule
Roster Stats

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Rick Nash Derick Brassard Jakub Voracek
R.J. Umberger Antoine Vermette Kristian Huselius
Chris Clark Samuel Pahlsson Andrew Murray
Matt Calvert Derek MacKenzie Jared Boll
Jan Hejda Anton Stralman
Fedor Tyutin Marc Methot
Grant Clitsome Kris Russell
Steve Mason
Mathieu Garon

 

Dallas Stars

James Neal Brad Richards Loui Eriksson
Brenden Morrow Mike Ribeiro Jason Williams
Jamie Langenbrunner Tom Wandell Steve Ott
Brian Sutherby Aaron Gagnon

Tomas Vincour

Trevor Daley Stephane Robidas

Karlis Skrastins

Jeff Woywitka
Mark Fistric Nicklas Grossman
Kari Lehtonen
Andrew Raycroft

 

Tidbit: Speaking of a day at the flicks, how'd you like to see the 100 Greatest Film Noir Movie Posters?

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