COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 09: Samuel Pahlsson #26 of the Columbus Blue Jackets controls the puck in front of Kevin Shattenkirk #12 of the St. Louis Blues on March 9, 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
As the Jackets play their final game against the St. Louis Blues for this season, and their second to last game at Nationwide before Saturday's finale, more and more teams officially fall out of contention, while the teams who are set for the post-season finish jockeying for position.
But that doesn't mean we can't leave our fellow division member with one last good hit or twenty to remember us by until October.
The Jackets will be down at least one impactful skater, and potentially as many as three. As reported yesterday, Jan Hejda was suspended for this game and the next by the NHL under rule 48 for his elbow to Marcus Kruger, while Rick Nash and Steve Mason are both questionable with what are believed to be groin injuries.
Given the inconsistent results from Mathieu Garon on Friday, which ranged from exceptional to laughable, I have to wonder if Scott Arniel might consider giving David LeNeveau a look this afternoon, given the short turnaround from Friday's game. The journeyman is also in a position where he's unlikely to considered for the full time backup role, but could potentially be re-signed to continue playing in Springfield, and it might not hurt to see how he handles spot duty.
Craig Rivet is expected to replace Jan Hejda in the lineup, and though the team really cannot replace Rick Nash, the play of Tomas Kubalik and Maksim Mayorov has been an extremely pleasant surprise - particularly how Kubalik appears to have immediately gelled with Antoine Vermette and Matt Calvert.
The Blues, on the other hand, are mostly healthy. David Perron is still out with a concussion, but the Blues got back both Alex Steen and Barret Jackman on Friday, whom they had expected to miss the remainder of the season.
Neither team has much to play for, aside from improving or reducing draft position, but the Blues would be able to leapfrog Columbus for 12th place with a win, while Columbus could put themselves up over Minnesota. It's not much at all to play for, but perhaps it will be enough.
Keys to the Game:
- Even The Score - The Jackets are 2-1-2 vs. the Blues this season. A win would salvage a tie in the season series. Not much, but something.
- Power Play - The Jackets finally got off the long PP skid with Derick Brassard's tally against Chicago on Friday, and despite their woes, the PP has actually been fairly successful vs. the Blues this year, with a power play goal in three of the 5 matchups so far, out of 21 opportunities. It's a little scary that 14% conversion rate is "fairly successful", but it is what it is this season. (Remarkably, the Jackets didn't actually score a power play goal in the 8-1 blowout that started the season, but I think the Blues got the point regardless.)
- Attack, Attack, Attack - The Jackets get burned when they get hesitant, particularly the defense. I'd far rather see the occasional broken play or bad turnover if it came as part of a continual attempt to drive to the net instead of hesitation at the blue line or not being able to play the puck cleanly in transition. St. Louis will give you opportunities to score around the net, particularly on rebounds. We need to see guys like Kubalik, Calvert, Voracek, Upshall, and even Mayorov getting around the net to capitalize on them.
Is it so much to ask for them to just win? That's all I really want for the final two home games, as sad as it probably sounds. Just win, and give a little hope and excitement to take into the long slow months without.
Blue Jackets Information:
|R.J. Umberger||Jakub Voracek|
|Tomas Kubalik||Antoine Vermette||Matt Calvert|
|Scottie Upshall||Samuel Pahlsson||Derek Dorsett|
|Maksim Mayorov||Jared Boll|
|Craig Rivet||Sami Lepisto|
|Fedor Tyutin||Marc Methot|
|Anton Stralman||Kris Russell|
|David Backes||Andy McDonald||Matt D'Agostini|
|Patrik Berglund||Alex Steen||Chris Stewart|
|Chris Porter||T.J. Oshie|
|Ryan Reaves||Adam Cracknell||Cam Janssen|
|Barret Jackman||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Ian Cole||Kevin Shattenkirk|
|Carlo Colaiacovo||Nikita Nikitin|