Game 61 Preview: Rick Nash's Columbus Swan Song?

COLUMBUS OH - FEBRUARY 11: Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets salutes the crowd after being named the number one star after helping defeat the Colorado Avalanche 3-1 on February 11 2011 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

Colorado Avalanche at Columbus Blue Jackets

Febuary 24, 2012 - 7:00pm EST
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponents Blog: Mile High Hockey
Get Tickets

First, the good news. Curtis Sanford is off the IR list, and Allen York is down to Springfield. Looks like it's still Mason in net tonight, though. Also, James Wisniewski was back out there for morning skate, and said he feels good and is good to go tonight. Finally, Cam Atkinson has been recalled, and will play on the right wing with Vinny Prospal and Mark Letestu.

OK, onto the bad news. In all seriousness, there is a bit of a shadow over this game. I won't be surprised if there's an uptick in attendance (Friday night, after all), because tonight may be the last night for Columbus fans to see Rick Nash at Nationwide in a Union Blue sweater. Nash was unavailable to the media after morning skate (or, at least super-ninja-y and I missed him entirely). But, if a trade goes down before the Monday, 3 PM EST deadline, tonight is your last chance to see Nasher in a Jackets uni at home.

In talking with some folks who would know better than I, the feeling was that it was about 60/40 that Nash does NOT get dealt by Monday. However, if the club is in a FULL rebuild, it's hard to envision a scenario in which Nash stays beyond the NHL draft this summer. He's 27, has zero playoff wins, and if the club is embarking on a four- or five-year rebuild, well, no one could fault Nash for not wanting to suffer through it.

So, on the off chance that this is his last night at Nationwide for awhile, enjoy it, folks.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(18-35-7, 43 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)

R.J. Umberger Derick Brassard Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal Mark Letestu Cam Atkinson
Ryan Russell Samuel Pahlsson Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies Derek MacKenzie Ryan Johansen
Fedor Tyutin Nikita Nikitin
John Moore James Wisniewski
Grant Clitsome Brett Lebda
Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford

Colorado Avalanche
(30-27-4, 64 Points; 3rd Division, 11th Conference)

Matt Duchene Paul Stastny Milan Hejduk
Gabriel Landeskog Ryan O`Reilly Steve Downie
Daniel Winnik Mark Olver David Jones
Cody McLeod Jay McClement Chuck Kobasew
Shane O`Brien Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda Ryan O`Byrne
Ryan Wilson Stefan Elliott
Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Season Series

10/12/11 - Colorado 2 at Columbus 1 (SO) - RECAP
02/24/12 - Colorado at Columbus
03/01/12 - Columbus at Colorado
04/05/12 - Columbus at Colorado

Head to Head

Colorado Columbus
2.43 (23) GPG 2.32 (27)
2.75 (18) GAPG 3.22 (29)
19.1% (7) PP% 17.1% (16)
81.9% (17) PK% 75.8% (30)
Paul Stastny, 16 G leader Rick Nash, 20
Ryan O'Reilly, 30 A leader Vinny Prospal, 28
Ryan O'Reilly, 45 Pts leader Rick Nash, 42
Cody McLeod, 136 PIM leader Derek Dorsett, 177
13-14-3 Road/Home 11-16-3
2/22 vs. Los Angeles, W 4-1 Last Game 2/21 vs. San Jose, W 6-3
4-4-2 Last 10 5-4-1

Game Notes

  • Hello! - Jan Hejda makes his second appearance back in Columbus since signing a free agent contract in Colorado over the summer. "Likes defense" me is nostalgic; "let's dump salary!" me is still not sad we didn't give him four years, though some of the contracts on this team defy that same logic.
  • Focus - Todd Richards talked about tonight's game and of the team's focus given the trade rumors swirling around: "No, I'm not [worried about the team's focus]. I sense that in the players, that they're getting focused, they're getting prepared for the game. Our players have done a good, professional job as far as getting ready to play games and practice."
  • Speed Bumps - Richards noted that Colorado brings a similar style of play to that of the Sharks, who were here on Tuesday night. "They attack, they're fast," Richards said. "It's going to be our puck management again. It helped that we got some goals early against San Jose, and we got some key saves at key moments. Managing the puck will be a big key." It's no secret that, in the past, the speed of the Avs has given the Jackets fits.
  • Power Surge - The Jackets PP unit has been humming of late, with 12 PPG over their past nine games (12-for-39, 30.8%). Derick Brassard, who has seen more time playing the point on the PP of late, said nothing has changed in terms of their system, that it's been all execution. Bill Davidge disagreed, slightly, noting that there's been a change in how they enter the zone, with the puck-drop we saw a lot of Tuesday night. Davs noted it's a move the Red Wings have done for years, and while it's not completely in full gear hear, it does cause the defense to flat-foot for a second, which gives the Jackets a better chance to enter the zone with speed. But, Davs agreed with Brassard in that it's execution and confidence... those pucks go in, and the confidence builds. Also, I love talking hockey with Davs, in case I've never mentioned it.

Can Columbus keep plugging along, amidst the shadow of more changes to the roster? They are 5-3-1 in their last nine games, and as Richards alluded to, don't seem to be too flustered by the trade rumors. We shall see if they are ready to go again tonight!

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