Game 51 Preview: Crucible

Crucible n. - 1. A refractory container used for metal, glass, and pigment production as well as a number of modern laboratory processes. 2. A severe test. 3. A place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development.

With the stress on the team to WIN NOW increasing, the Jackets have called up rookie d-man John Moore. Not only will he be asked to go into the lineup to replace the injured Rusty Klesla and the unreliable Anton Stralman, but his first test as an NHL player will be in the heart of the fire - Joe Louis Arena, against a Detroit Red WIngs squad that has stayed competitive despite heavy injuries, and now appears to be getting healthy in time to start tearing their way towards the playoffs.

It's a test for the entire team, but one has to think that Moore will be facing a bit more pressure than everyone else as he deals with the excitement, the nerves, and the "wow" factor of his first regular season NHL game, particularly against such a storied franchise.

Welcome to the NHL, kid.

Essentials:

Game Time: 7:30 pm EST
TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 WFAN-FM
Blue Jackets vs Red Wings coverage
Opponent's Blog: Winging It In Motown 

In truth, though, this team can't (and won't) rise or fall just based on the play of one young defenseman. If the Jackets want to have a chance at finding their way into the postseason (which might be more possible than you think), tonight is going to be a test where all of them will need to face the challenges that come with bearing the lion in his den, and stepping up to face them.

There is a little bit of good news -  Pavel Datsyuk, who had been expected to return to the lineup today, will be out. Dan Cleary, also expected back, is a game time decision.

There is bad news - Johan Franzen, who scored the OT winner against the Jackets in their last meeting, utterly destroyed Ottawa two nights ago with a five goal game. To say he's hot right now is a lot like saying that dipping your hand in a vat of battery acid may not be a good idea.

A little over two weeks ago, this team showed a good bit of gut-check when they took 3 of 4 points from the Wings in a back to back. There's only one matchup with Detroit in this weekend's set of games, but they need to bring the same level of competitive fire tonight if they want to make an impact.

Keys To The Game:

  • Kick The Mule - Franzen, as mentioned, has been the guy to rise to the top for Detroit with the absence of some of their other offensive powerhouses. The Jackets have to commit to minimizing his looks with the puck. 
  • Speed Racers - One advantage to calling up John Moore is the way he'll add significant speed to the D. That's important, because the Wings have scored several goals (most notably by Drew Miller and Valteri Filppula) against the Jackets this year by simply outracing the D from the neutral zone in onto the goal. Minimizing these chases and trying to cut down on the odd-man rushes is key.
  • The Power Play - Thanks to the contributions of Grant Clitsome, the Jackets' PP has improved to 14th in the NHL on the road, at 17.8%, while the Wings' PK has dropped to 24th in the NHL at home at 81%. With Matt Calvert slated to get more power play time, the Jackets need to use that infusion of energy to help hammer down the Wings when they find themselves with the opportunity....and for the love of god, try not to give up any more shorties.

I don't believe the fat lady has sung yet, though Greenseater's Photoshoppery gave me a heck of a laugh (and his reasoning in that article and its' companion did make me think). But there are no more freebies. The good thing about a crucible is that the hotter the fire gets, the more impurities and weaknesses burn off. What you're left with is something strong, enduring, and valuable.

The fire around the Jackets is pretty damn hot now. Let's hope we find the things worth keeping as a result.

Blue Jackets Information:

Team Page  Schedule
Roster Stats

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

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

 

Detroit Red Wings

Johan Franzen Henrik Zetterberg Todd Bertuzzi
Jiri Hudler Valtteri Filppula Dan Cleary
Kris Draper Darren Helm Patrick Eaves
Drew Miller Justin Abdelkader

Jan Mursak

Nicklas Lidstrom Niklas Kronwall

Jonathan Ericsson

Brian Rafalski
 Jakub Kindl
Ruslan Salei
Jimmy Howard
Joey MacDonald

 

Tidbit: MENDOZAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

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