Tonight kicks off what will be a busy--and huge--week for the Jackets. They play tonight in Dallas, at home tomorrow and Thursday against Detroit and San Jose respectively, and finish on Saturday in Minnesota for their last game outside of the Eastern Time Zone (hooray!). All tough games, for sure. The bonus? With three of the games being against Western Conference foes, the Jackets can afford to simply focus on getting points. Yes, ROW are nice, but damn it, man, JUST. GET. POINTS.
This is the second meeting between these two clubs in seven days, and the first game last week was really two games in one: there was the first period in which the Jackets simply dominated, burning a rusty Dan Ellis early (the same Dan Ellis shipped out the next day, heh) en route to a quick 3-0 lead. The rest of the game, however, was an exercise is "holy shit we shouldn't have taken our foot off the gas," as the Stars charged back in the second and third to get to 3-2. Until Artem Anisimov's clinching goal late in the third, it really felt like a game the Jackets were going to find a way to lose.
And, that sets the stage for tonight's game. Both teams have been playing well of late (both 4-2 since the break, the Stars are 10-2-3 over their last 15 games, the Blue Jackets are 16-7-1 since January 1), and are matching strengths: the Stars are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games at home, and the Jackets are 6-4-1 in their last 11 games on the road; The Stars have scored on the power play in the last four games and are 6-19 (31.6 percent) during that stretch, and conversely the Jackets are 36-40 (90.0 percent) on the penalty kill over their last 11 games. Even further, looking at the stats below, these two teams couldn't be much more evenly matched. Hell, even though Anisimov was named the NHL's 2nd Star of the Week, the Stars' Tyler Seguin won the 1st Star honor.
That said, both teams have a couple of injury issues. For Columbus, it's been talked to death: they're missing at least two (and possibly three if something changes with Nikitin) starting defensemen, and for Dallas, Kari Lehtonen is out after being run Saturday night and sustaining a head injury. Enter Tim Thomas, who yet again finds himself in the thick of a playoff race playing important minutes. (And, how glad are the Stars that they don't have to rely on Dan Ellis? Yikes!)
The Jackets will go with Curtis McElhinney in net tonight, and it makes sense. They're playing a back-to-back with travel, and tomorrow night's game looms a bit larger in the playoff race. Save your best goalie for that one. In front of CMac, the same forward lines will be out there from Saturday, and with Nikita Nikitin coming back the Jackets get slightly better on defense. They have four healthy scratches tonight, and that will help them tomorrow night; look for some of the Cam Atkinson/Matt Frattin/Cody Goloubef triumvirate to make an appearance tomorrow.
And hey, the Jackets dodged a bullet, as the Stars retired Mike Modano's number on Saturday and NOT tonight. Way to avoid THAT mojo.
Columbus Blue Jackets
(33-26-5, 71 Points; 4th division, 8th conference)
|Nick Foligno||Ryan Johansen||Boone Jenner|
|Matt Calvert||Brandon Dubinsky||Nathan Horton|
|R.J. Umberger||Artem Anisimov||Corey Tropp|
|Derek MacKenzie||Mark Letestu||Blake Comeau|
|Nikita Nikitin||James Wisniewski|
|Jack Johnson||David Savard|
|Nick Schultz||Dalton Prout|
(31-23-10, 72 Points; 5th division, 8th conference)
|Jamie Benn||Tyler Seguin||Rich Peverley|
|Erik Cole||Cody Eakin||Alex Chiasson|
|Antoine Roussel||Vernon Fiddler||Ryan Garbutt|
|Ray Whitney||Shawn Horcoff||Valeri Nichushkin|
|Alex Goligoski||Trevor Daley|
|Jordie Benn||Brenden Dillon|
|Kevin Connauton||Sergei Gonchar|
03/04/14 - Dallas 2 at Columbus 4
03/10/14 - Columbus at Dallas
Head to Head Stats
Dallas Columbus 2.84 (8) GPG 2.84 (9) 2.73 (16) GAPG 2.77 (17) 15.8% (23) PP% 18.8% (15) 81.2% (18) PK% 81.8% (16) Tyler Seguin, 29 G leader Ryan Johansen, 25 Tyler Seguin, 37 A leader James Wisniewski, 33 Tyler Seguin, 66 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 49 Antoine Roussel, 164 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky, 90 18-10-6 Home/Road 15-15-3 3/8 vs. Minnesota, W 4-3 Last Game 3/8 @ Nashville, W 1-0 7-2-1 Last 10 6-3-1