Game Preview #59 - The Sprint Begins!

Bruce Bennett

The Jackets are back! With 24 games to make up 3 points in either the division or the Wild Card standings, it's an all-out dash to the finish line. Along the way, they look to complete the season-sweep of the Devils tonight.

Columbus Blue Jackets at New Jersey Devils

February 27, 2014 - 7:00 pm EST
Prudential Center - Newark, NJ
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: In Lou We Trust
Blue Jackets vs Devils coverage

Here's how tight this race is: these two teams are two points apart in the same number of games played (edit - clearly, I cannot count or read; the Devils have played one more game than the Jackets), and yet find themselves with three teams between them in the race. Yikes.

But, yeah, this game is important. Hell, from here on out, they ALL are important. A win tonight would give the Jackets the season sweep over the Devils, and with the slate of games tonight, there is room to move in the division. The entire division is in action tonight, and other than this game no two divisional teams are playing each other; Pittsburgh is also playing Montreal which has Wild Card implication for Columbus. So, there's actually a chance that the Jackets could win and get a ton of help. (I know, I know, that never seems to happen, but it bears mentioning...)

The Jackets almost got to the elusive promised land of being "100% healthy," but the Olympics took a toll on their blue-line with Fedor Tyutin going down to an ankle injury. He'll be out at least two weeks (possibly longer), and Dalton Prout and Cody Goloubef have been called up. Prout gets first-crack at filling in, and slots in on the [gulp] top pairing with Jack Johnson.

However, the flip side of that coin is that both Marian Gaborik and Blake Comeau are healthy, with the former getting back into the lineup tonight. Considering he's not played an entire game since November, the Jackets will bring him along slowly. He'll start on the fourth line, though he'll get some top-PP-unit work as well. If he is able to produce, he may get moved up in the lineup. We all know how Todd Richards likes to tinker...

The Devils, frankly, have surprised me. I expected a complete implosion this season, but their defense and special teams have kept them afloat. Jaromir Jagr continues to defy all traditional measures of age and decline, and the Devils' top-five defense, league-leading PK, and sold PP unit have made up for a lack of overall scoring.

And that's the key: the Jackets are probably going to struggle on the Power Play given that they haven't had any game action for three weeks and the Devils' PK is very good. The Devils' PP is solid, and the Jackets PK is a bit of an enigma, and will be without Fedor Tyutin. But, the biggest divide between these two clubs is at 5-on-5 even strength: The Jackets have scored 114 goals in 58 games (1.97 per game), and the Devils sit at just 89 goals in 59 games (1.51 per game).

So, there it is. Stats, schmats. It's game time, finally! Let's go, boys! 24 to go, let's bring it home!

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(29-24-5, 63 Points; 4th division, 9th conference)

Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Nathan Horton
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno Artem Anisimov R.J. Umberger
Mark Letestu Derek MacKenzie Marian Gaborik
Jack Johnson Dalton Prout
Ryan Murray James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin David Savard
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

New Jersey Devils
(24-22-13, 61 Points; 7th division, 13th conference)

Dainius Zubrus Travis Zajac Jaromir Jagr
Patrik Elias Adam Henrique Damien Brunner
Ryane Clowe Andrei Loktionov Michael Ryder
Stephen Gionta Jacob Josefson Steve Bernier
Andy Greene Mark Fayne
Jon Merrill Eric Gelinas
Bryce Salvador Marek Zidlicky
Cory Schneider
Martin Brodeur

Season Series

10/22/13 - New Jersey 1 at Columbus 4
12/10/13 - New Jersey 4 at Columbus 5
12/27/13 - Columbus 2 at New Jersey 1 (SO)
02/27/14 - Columbus at New Jersey

Head to Head Stats

New Jersey Columbus
2.29 (28) GPG 2.86 (7)
2.34 (5) GAPG 2.76 (18)
19.0% (13) PP% 18.6% (15)
87.4% (1) PK% 82.2% (13)
Jaromir Jagr, 17 G leader Ryan Johansen, 24
Jaromir Jagr, 32 A leader James Wisniewski, 30
Jaromir Jagr, 49 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 46
Marek Zidlicky, 48 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky, 86
13-7-7 Home/Road 13-13-3
2/8 @ Washington, L 3-0 Last Game 2/7 @ San Jose, L 3-2
4-4-2 Last 10 5-4-1
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