Blue Jackets Game 78 Preview: Another Chance at Spoiler

Florida Panthers at Columbus Blue Jackets

March 30, 2012 - 7:00pm EDT
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS FM 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponents Blog: Litter Box Cats
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We may never know the "milestones" that this group sat down and discussed around the trading deadline. While they told us there were several they wished to achieve before next Friday's end of the season, we don't know what those goals are. If I might completely speculate, I always assumed that two of them were to eclipse 22 wins (previous franchise low) and 57 points (2001-2002 point total, franchise low). Well, they've passed that first mark, and with a point tonight they'll pass the second.

Another less quantifiable milestone has been the ability to play the spoiler's role. The Jackets have really embraced it. Wins over Colorado, Phoenix (x2), Los Angeles, Calgary, Carolina, and even Wednesday's win over Detroit ALL had playoff implications for the opponents. Tonight is no different. The Panthers come in 3rd in the Eastern Conference by virtue of their division lead. However, Washington is only four points behind, and currently is sitting in ninth place in the East. So, there are definitely playoff implications for these two points for Florida tonight.

The Jackets pulled off a stunning win against Detroit the other night thanks in large part to rookie netminder Allen York. York turned aside 29 shots in the 4-2 win, and one of the goals he did allow went off the skate of teammate Jack Johnson in front of the net. In other words, York was pretty solid. Given the struggles of Steve Mason his last two times out, it would be difficult to pull Yorkie from the starting role tonight were I the coach.

The Panthers come in relatively hot, with a 10-4-4 record in their last 18. However, they've gone to extra time in each of their last four games (1-0-3) and are in the midst of a four-game road trip that has them heading to Detroit on Sunday. They're also playing the second end of a road-road back-to-back. Perhaps, like with Carolina, there might be a bit of looking ahead?

For the Jackets, defenseman David Savard was sent back to Springfield and Dalton Prout was recalled to take his spot on the roster. At 6'3", 221 pounds, Prout is a monster. He has 4G, 8A, and 52 PIM in 60 games in Springfield.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(25-45-7, 57 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)

R.J. Umberger Derick Brassard Cam Atkinson
Vinny Prospal Mark Letestu Rick Nash
Ryan Russell Ryan Johansen Derek Dorsett
Colton Gillies Darryl Boyce Jared Boll
Jack Johnson Dalton Prout
Nikita Nikitin Brett Lebda
Aaron Johnson John Moore
Allen York
Steve Mason

Florida Panthers
(37-24-16, 90 Points; 1st Division, 3rd Conference)

Tomas Fleischmann Stephen Weiss Tomas Kopecky
Sean Bergenheim Marcel Goc Mikael Samuelsson
Wojtek Wolski Shawn Matthias Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm Jerred Smithson Scottie Upshall
Jason Garrison Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov Mike Weaver
Erik Gudbranson Ed Jovanovski
Scott Clemmensen
Jose Theodore

Season Series

03/30/12 - Florida at Columbus

Head to Head

Florida Columbus
2.40 (26) GPG 2.30 (28)
2.61 (13) GAPG 3.21 (29)
18.8% (8) PP% 14.8% (27)
79.6% (24) PK% 75.8% (30)
Tomas Fleischmann, 25 G leader Rick Nash, 27
Brian Campbell, 47 A leader Vinny Prospal, 35
Tomas Fleischmann, 58 Pts leader Rick Nash, 53
Krys Barch, 89 PIM leader Derek Dorsett, 212
17-15-6 Road/Home 15-21-3
3/29 @ Minnesota, L 3-2 (OT) Last Game 3/28 vs. Detroit, W 4-2
6-1-3 Last 10 3-7-0

Game Notes

  • Homecoming? - The Panthers are coached by none other than Kevin Dineen, who was a fan favorite as an expansion member of the Jackets. He was also in the running for the coaching hire here when Scott Arniel was hired two summers ago. I'm sure there are certain writers/columnists for certain news outlets here in the city that will be sure to point that out along with the fact that it was clearly a mistake not to have hired him. I'll leave you to figure out who those people might be. In addition, note the picture above; though his stay here was brief, former Jacket Scottie Upshall gets a chance to revisit his former stomping grounds. Ironically, Upshall scored in the game against Florida last March 29th here in Columbus.
  • Light at the End of the Tunnel? - As bad as this season has been for the Jackets, it's important to note that they're 12-13-1 over their last 26 games (25 points). Good? No. Dumpster fire? Maybe not so much.
  • Head to Head - These two teams don't play too often, but the Jackets have the edge all-time: they are 7-4-0 all time against Florida, including four straight meetings.
  • Iron Man - In the last two games, Jack Johnson has played a combined 63:41. Both games were personal bests for TOI, with 31:25 on Monday and 32:16 on Wednesday. As badly as the defensive corps has been decimated by injuries, Johnson is stepping up big time.
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