Blue Jackets Game #3 Preview: Tame the Pups

Russell LaBounty-US PRESSWIRE

The Blue Jackets head west and try to keep their momentum going as they visit the Pacific Division Champ Phoenix Coyotes.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Phoenix Coyotes

January 23, 2013 - 10:00pm EST
Jobing.com Arena - Glendale, Arizona
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponents Blog: Five for Howling
SBNation Game Page

Well, if you had the Jackets heading into game three with three points already in the bag, you were more confident than I was. Likewise, if you had the Coyotes struggling to keep the puck out of their own net as much as they have thus far, you were smarter than I was.

The Yotes come into tonight's game struggling a bit, having allowed 10 goals in their first two games (both losses). They're scoring some goals, but sooner or later Mike Smith needs to get back into his form from a season ago in which he carried the Coyotes all the way to the Conference Finals.

Let's remember, though, that even WITH last season's stellar numbers, Smith is still a career 2.59 gaa / .913 sv% goalie through 231 games in the league. So, the real question may be: was last year the aberration?

The Jackets showed some moxie on Monday by taking a lead after falling behind 2-0 in the second period. They got it done on the Power Play, which is also an area in which Phoenix is struggling thus far. Columbus isn't going to overwhelm anyone with skill, but what they've been able to do is keep working and keep plugging away until they get themselves back into games. The trick will be not to fall behind early on.

Columbus was incredibly sloppy in their own zone on Monday, and they were fortunate that Sergei Bobrovsky kept them in the game. They can't keep relying on that, though one wonders how last season might have unfolded if they'd had this kind of goaltending early on. At any rate, the Jackets have seemingly already showed that they're buying into the notion that a 60-minute collective effort can trump individual skill.

And, as bad as last season was, it's important to remember that the Jackets actually had success against the Coyotes, with a 3-1-0 record; the only loss came on a night in which Smith was simply unbeatable. I'm sure Phoenix fans would enjoy seeing him play like that again.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(1-0-1, 3 Points; 4th division, 8th conference)

R.J. Umberger Derick Brassard Cam Atkinson
Brandon Dubinsky Artem Anisimov Derek Dorsett
Nick Foligno Ryan Johansen Vinny Prospal
Matt Calvert Derek MacKenzie Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin Nikita Nikitin
Jack Johnson James Wisniewski
John Moore Adrian Aucoin
Sergei Bobrovsky
Steve Mason

Phoenix Coyotes
(0-2-0, 0 Points; 4th Division, 14th Conference)

Steve Sullivan Martin Hanzal Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker Antoine Vermette Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski Matthew Lombardi David Moss
Alexandre Bolduc Boyd Gordon Kyle Chipchura
Oliver Ekman-Larsson Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle Derek Morris
Rostislav Klesla David Schlemko
Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

Season Series

01/23/13 - Columbus at Phoenix
02/16/13 - Columbus at Phoenix
03/16/13 - Phoenix at Columbus

Head to Head

Phoenix Columbus
3.50 (t8) GPG 2.50 (t11)
5.00 (t29) GAPG 2.50 (t14)
25.0% (t12) PP% 33.3% (t7)
66.7% (t23) PK% 87.5% (t8)
Radim Vrbata, 2 G leader five tied, 1
Keith Yandle / David Schlemko, 2 A leader Fedor Tyutin, 3
Radim Vrbata, 3 Pts leader Fedor Tyutin, 3
Shane Doan, 6 PIM leader Jared Boll, 10
0-1-0 Home/Road 1-0-0
vs Chicago, L 6-4 Last Game vs Detroit, L 4-3 (SO)
0-2-0 Last 10 1-0-1
    Game Notes
  • Former Jackets - While the Coyotes are now slightly lighter in their Former Jackets, there are two former Columbus mainstays: Rostislav Klesla and Antoine Vermette. There has often been a sect of the Jackets' fanbase that lamented the Klesla trade, but it should be noted that he's spending time on the third pairing in Phoenix. Would he really be doing anything more than that in Columbus, now?
  • The Young Guys! - The Jackets got contributions from their new guys on Saturday, and we saw a flash on Monday of some of the future top-line talent when Ryan Johansen sprung Cam Atkinson on a break-away that the latter turned into a slick goal. Atkinson said afterward: "[Johansen] makes the game slow down." They didn't play together in Springfield, but it wouldn't surprise me to see them play together more in Columbus down the line.
  • Goaltending - Sergei Bobrovsky was the sole reason that the Jackets didn't get run out of the barn in the first period Monday night. He's played well overall through two games. The same cannot be said for Mike Smith, who has struggled through the first two games. Phoenix will most likely only go as far as Smith is able to carry them, much like last season.

You'll need your no-doz tonight, folks, as this is our first super-late game of the year. Certainly won't be the last.

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