Game 54 Preview: Uncharted Territory

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 29: Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates the puck against Mike Ribeiro #63 of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on December 29, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Dallas Stars at Columbus Blue Jackets

February 9, 2012 - 7:00pm EST
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS FM 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponents Blog: Defending Big D
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February 25, 2011.

This is Game 54, and the Blue Jackets are still yet to win three games in a row this season. In fact, the last time the Jackets skated off the ice as winners of three straight games? February 25, 2011. I don't have to tell you that's almost a calendar year.

They have a chance to break that streak tonight, as the Dallas Stars come limping to town. The Stars are coming off a listless loss to Phoenix on Tuesday night, and sit in 12th place in the conference, searching for a spark to get them back into the playoff picture.

Since starting off 11-3-0, the Stars have been a mediocre-at-best team with a 16-20-2 record over their last 38 games. This includes a pretty lack-luster effort back on December 29, when Columbus went into Dallas and thumped them to the tune of 4-1.

Ryan Johansen appears to be sitting for his fourth straight game:

"I haven't talked with him every day. We'll have conversations with him here and there," Blue Jackets interim coach Todd Richards said. "That's one thing that he's got to learn as a young player, how to deal with things on his own, to function when coaches aren't around, the hard work that you have to put in when the coaches aren't around, to get yourself back in the lineup. More importantly, it's when you get your opportunity that you're ready for it, and then you stay in the lineup."

I know the Jackets have been a better team over their last three games, but come on. I know Colton Gillies is playing hard, but I can't say I can see the rationale for keeping Johansen in the NHL if he's going to sit behind Gillies. I mean, what's going to happen when Mark Letestu comes back? This season is clearly NOT about winning games at this point (did I just type that? Yes, yes I did.), so play the kid. He's gotta learn whatever it is he's not getting at some point.

The Stars come in with just three wins in their last 10, and two of those wins were over the enigmatic Ducks. I think this is a game that could be had for the Jackets if they play with the same kind of effort as the past few games.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(15-32-6, 36 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)

R.J. Umberger Derick Brassard Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal Jeff Carter Colton Gillies
Antoine Vermette Samuel Pahlsson Derek Dorsett
Ryan Russell Derek MacKenzie Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin Aaron Johnson
Marc Methot John Moore
Grant Clitsome David Savard
Curtis Sanford
Steve Mason

Dallas Stars
(27-23-2, 56 Points; 4th Division, 12th Conference)

Steve Ott Jamie Benn Tomas Vincour
Loui Eriksson Mike Ribeiro Michael Ryder
Eric Nystrom Vernon Fiddler Radek Dvorak
Toby Petersen Tom Wandell Adam Burish
Sheldon Souray Stephane Robidas
Nicklas Grossman Trevor Daley
Alex Goligoski Philip Larsen
Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

Season Series

10/15/11 - Columbus 2 at Dallas 4 - RECAP
10/18/11 - Dallas 3 at Columbus 2 - RECAP
12/29/11 - Columbus 4 at Dallas 1 - RECAP
02/09/12 - Dallas at Columbus

Head to Head

Dallas Columbus
2.56 (18) GPG 2.26 (28)
2.81 (19) GAPG 3.21 (29)
14.6% (23) PP% 14.5% (24)
82.3% (16) PK% 75.7% (30)
Michael Ryder, 19 G leader Rick Nash, 17
Jamie Benn, 31 A leader Vinny Prospal, 24
Jamie Benn, 46 Pts leader Rick Nash, 35
Steve Ott, 105 PIM leader Derek Dorsett, 137
12-13-0 Road/Home 9-13-3
2/7 vs. Phoenix, L 4-1 Last Game 2/7 vs. Minnesota, W 3-1
3-6-1 Last 10 3-6-1

Game Notes:

  • Benn There, Done That - It was back in October, but I don't think any of us have forgotten the Goal of the Year candidate put forth by Jamie Benn back in the last meeting at Nationwide. Benn has been the man for the Stars this season, leading the team in points and earning a trip to the All Star Game in Ottawa. Hopefully Columbus won't let him get loose like he did in that October contest.
  • Enter Sandman - The head-scratching stat (avert your eyes, Steve Mason) for a team in 30th place by 11 points? Look at Curtis Sanford's record. He's factored into 26 of the team's 53 decisions (so, basically half), and is 10-12-4 (24 points). The team has 36 points in 53 games, and Sanford has earned 24 of those points in just 26 of those games. In other words, holy shit, Steve Mason!
  • Dorse and Otter - Keep an eye on these two. A combined 242 PIM between them generally points to something going down.

Three in a row. Let's get it done.

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