Game 58 Preview: Good Old Fashioned Grudge Match

When the team is frustrated, when the fans are agitated, when injuries and an 82 game season take their toll on players, coaches, and spectators alike, sometimes all you need to get yourself going is a simple: Man, I hate those guys.

With the Jackets in position to pull even to the Blackhawks in the standings with a win tonight, and four points from a playoff berth, I'd suggest that they hate them very much indeed right now.

Essentials:
Game Time: 8:30 pm EST
TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 WFAN-FM
Blue Jackets vs Blackhawks coverage
Opponent's Blog: Second City Hockey 

The biggest news since Wednesday's game with the LA Kings has been injuries and replacements - after a second MRI, Derick Brassard has been placed on IR with an expected return in 2-3 weeks (the official reports from the team are an "upper body injury" - that timeframe means probably NOT a broken hand, could be a badly sprained wrist, might be a broken finger, could be a bone contusion. Where's WATSON when we need him?) , while Derek Dorsett was also placed on IR yesterday evening despite reports from the team that he has passed a neurological test. 

Both traveled with the team to Chicago, and Dorsett was continuing to practice, but the Jackets have also made the move of calling up defenseman John Moore, apparently to compensate for "nagging injuries" according to Scott Arniel, but this close to the deadline, the unexpected return of the young defenseman has made several people wonder if something could be afoot.

The lines for tonight are merely projections, and much is subject to change, but the Jackets do have a few things to gun for - if they can win in the United Center tonight it would set a franchise record for consecutive road wins AND road points streaks, while the Blackhawks have been in a serious freefall of late, made worse by the temporary loss of head coach Joel Quenneville to bleeding ulcers. (We also wish Joel a speedy recovery.)

Keys To The Game:

  • Power Up - There's no nice way to say this - our power play is wretched. Even the national hockey media are starting to grumble that the power play is what has let this team down and kept them from achieving this season, and they're absolutely right. On the other hand, that same power play has been much improved on the road of late, and Chicago's PK at home has been...almost as wretched as our power play. Seems like a good recipe for hilarity to me.
  • Shorties - The Jackets have had a real problem with allowing short handed goals this year, and Chicago contains some truly nasty short handed scorers in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. The power play units will need to be extra vigilant with their passing tonight to make sure they don't hand over a golden opportunity.
  • Barrage - We're still not sure if it will be Steve Mason or Mathieu Garon with the start tonight, but whomever gets the net, they'll need to be on their toes. Chicago is averaging over 33 shots a game, and they're very good at hammering their opponents early to see if something can wiggle through the cracks in the D they create. 
  • Regulate it - Unless the Jackets get themselves into dire straights again, tonight needs to be an effort to win in 60 minutes. Even though the Jackets ARE 2nd best in the NHL at scoring in the final two minutes, and scoring with the goalie pulled, giving Chicago a point would allow them to stay ahead of the Jackets in the race, and this will not do.

With Brassard out, it gets harder, but Scott Arniel seems committed to squeezing every ounce of effort from his team. I have a feeling we're going to see a very fired up Jackets team come out tonight.

Blue Jackets Information:

Team Page  Schedule
Roster Stats

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

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

 

Chicago Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp Jonathan Toews Patrick Kane
Michael Frolik Dave Bolland Marian Hossa
Troy Brouwer Tomas Kopecky Bryan Bickell
Viktor Stalberg Jake Dowell

John Scott

Duncan Keith Brent Seabrook

Niklas Hjalmarsson

Brian Campbell
Nick Leddy Jordan Hendry
Corey Crawford
Marty Turco

 

Tidbit: With these hands we will destroy / With these hands we will rebuild.

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