Mar. 3, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Rick Nash (61) celebrates after a goal by defenseman Nikita Nikitin (not pictured) as Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) and goalie Mike Smith (41) react in the third period at Jobing.com Arena. The Blue Jackets won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
The Jackets are back home after their mini two-game road trip (2-0-0, if you're scoring at home like I am!), and they go right back at it with the team they just played: the hot-and-cold Phoenix Coyotes. After going 11-0-1 in February to surge to first place in their division, they've lost their first three in March, including Saturday night's tilt against Columbus out in the desert. Last night's loss pushed them out of the division lead.
So, the Yotes will be a desperate team tonight; they may also be a bit road-weary, having played last night (loss) in Pittsburgh after traveling cross-country on Sunday. With that in mind, the Jackets will need to pounce early and often, in my opinion. Columbus, over their last two, seems to be relishing the spoiler's role, and in addition to that there are still some other milestones for them to shoot for the rest of the way:
- They can win the season series against Phoenix with a win tonight.
- They can win three games in a row for the first time all season with a win tonight.
- They need three wins to eclipse the worst win total in franchise history (22 in '01-'02)
- They need 11 points to eclipse the worst point total in franchise history (57 in '01-'02)
- Rick Nash needs just six more goals to get to 30 for the fifth straight season, sixth time in seven years, and seventh time in his career.
And all of those notes come with the fact that the Jackets still have a nine-point cushion on Edmonton for 30th place and thus by far the best chance to win the #1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. In addition, with two more tilts against the Coyotes, one more against the Kings, one more against the Flames, and one more against the Avalanche, the Jackets really do have the potential to impact the bottom half of the Conference standings, all while still pushing for those franchise milestone marks. You have to believe the guys in the room all know those numbers.
Ironically, it was that ill-fated '01-'02 season that got the team Rick Nash, and it's this ill-fated one that might have pushed him out the door. The Hockey Gods never cease to have a sense of humor.
In addition to all of that, tonight gives the fans a chance to thank Antoine Vermette for his years of service in a Union Blue sweater, as he makes his post-trading deadline return; missing tonight will be former Jacket Rostislav Klesla, however. Methinks the reception will be much, much nicer tonight for AV than it will on Thursday for our previous #7, but that's just me. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...
Columbus Blue Jackets
(20-38-7, 47 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)
|R.J. Umberger||Derick Brassard||Rick Nash|
|Vinny Prospal||Mark Letestu||Cam Atkinson|
|Ryan Russell||Derek MacKenzie||Derek Dorsett|
|Colton Gillies||Darryl Boyce||Ryan Johansen|
|Fedor Tyutin||Nikita Nikitin|
|Jack Johnson||James Wisniewski|
|John Moore||Brett Lebda|
(33-24-9, 75 Points; 2nd Division, 7th Conference)
|Ray Whitney||Martin Hanzal||Radim Vrbata|
|Lauri Korpikoski||Antoine Vermette||Shane Doan|
|Taylor Pyatt||Gilbert Brule||>Mikkel Boedker|
|Raffi Torres||Daymond Langkow||Paul Bissonnette|
|Keith Yandle||Adrian Aucoin|
|Oliver Ekman-Larsson||Michal Rozsival|
|Chris Summers||David Rundblad|
Head to Head
Phoenix Columbus 2.52 (19) GPG 2.31 (27) 2.44 (7) GAPG 3.22 (29) 13.4% (30) PP% 16.7% (17) 83.9% (8) PK% 75.9% (30) Radim Vrbata, 30 G leader Rick Nash, 24 Ray Whitney, 39 A leader Vinny Prospal, 30 Ray Whitney, 59 Pts leader Rick Nash, 47 Raffi Torres, 48 PIM leader Derek Dorsett, 183 16-12-5 Road/Home 11-18-3 3/5 @ Pittsburgh, L 2-1 Last Game 3/3 @ Phoenix, W 5-2 6-3-1 Last 10 4-5-1
- Jekyll and Hyde - The Blue Jackets are 3-3-0 in their last six. In the wins? 13 goals for, five allowed. In their losses? Four goals for, 14 allowed. Yikes! Which Jackets' team will show up tonight, defensively?
- Polished Brass - In the 23 games since Phoenix first came to town in January, Derick Brassard has seven goals and 11 assists (18 points). This after being scratched and posted on the fourth line almost nightly. Whatever has changed/flipped on the switch for Brass, I like it!
The Jackets played the last two games like a team with a chip on its shoulder. Can they keep that chip there for one more night?