Game Preview #81 - In, But (Hopefully) Not Done

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sport

The Blue Jackets did what they had to do early in the week, nailing down a playoff spot. Now, with two games to go, there's still some work to be done if they have designs on moving up in the seedings.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning

April 11, 2014 - 7:30pm EDT
Tampa Bay Times Forum - Tampa, Florida
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponents Blog: Raw Charge

Well, this game isn't as important as perhaps originally thought, since the Jackets did their best hero impression on Wednesday night and clinched their first playoff berth since 2009 with a convincing (for most of the game, anyway) win in Dallas.

And then, well, the Flyers go ahead and lose last night to these same Tampa Bay Lightning, and here we are all over again: this game carries some huge weight! Granted, it's no longer playoff life-and-death, but the Flyers exposed a hole in their defense of the third place Metro spot, and the Jackets have a chance to claw their way up the standings.

Standing in their way tonight are the Tampa Bay Lightning, playing the second night of a back-to-back (man, do we know that feeling, or what?), having played the aforementioned Flyers yesterday evening. They, too, suddenly have a bit more to play for, with Montreal gagging last night against the Isles. Home ice in that playoff series is suddenly very much up for grabs. The Lightning, no doubt, would like to take it.

For the Jackets, Sergei Bobrovsky will get the night off after a string of starts number six (in nine days). Well-deserved, in my opinion. CMac gets the start, and Bob will presumably go tomorrow night in South Florida, especially assuming that game still has some big meaning in the standings.

Columbus has beaten the Lightning twice in two tries already this season, and head coach Jon Cooper referred to the Jackets as "a pain in the ass". Thanks for noticing, Coop! All of that said, the difference tonight is that those two games were in Columbus, and Steven Stamkos didn't play in either of them. Ya know, the guy who has 25 goals in 35 games this season. Over a full season, that would be, umm... carry the one... a lot of [bleep]ing goals (58 or 59, depending on how you round your decimals).

That said, Ben Bishop is also out, which means (most likely) that Anders Linback will get his second straight start, and third appearance in four nights. Lindback played well last night against Philly, and kept Bishop's shutout intact on Tuesday against the Leafs (thanks for that, BTW), but for the season has really not been all that great, sporting a 3.05 gaa and .888 sv%. The Jackets beat Lindback 3-2 back in January.

As for the Jackets' lines, who the hell knows? No word out of morning skate at this point in the day, so I'm just going to throw some darts and see what comes out in the table below.

It's going to be kinda cool, actually. Both teams with something to play for, but not so desperate as to cause liver damage in their fan-bases... I can get on board for that. Meaningful regular season hockey that doesn't carry the weight or agony of missing the playoffs. I could get used to this!

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(42-31-7, 91 Points; 4th division, 7th conference)

Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Blake Comeau
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Jack Skille Artem Anisimov Mark Letestu
Corey Tropp Derek MacKenzie Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin Jack Johnson
Ryan Murray James Wisniewski
Nick Schultz David Savard
Curtis McElhinney
Sergei Bobrovsky

Tampa Bay Lightning
(44-27-9, 97 Points; 3rd Division, 4th Conference)

Ondrej Palat Steven Stamkos Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn Valtteri Filppula Ryan Callahan
J.T. Brown Tom Pyatt Nikita Kucherov
Richard Panik Nate Thompson Teddy Purcell
Matt Carle Radko Gudas
Victor Hedman Andrej Sustr
Eric Brewer Mike Kostka
Anders Lindback
Kristers Gudlevskis

Season Series

12/03/13 - Tampa Bay 0 at Columbus 1
01/13/14 - Tampa Bay 2 at Columbus 3
04/11/14 - Columbus at Tampa Bay

Head to Head Stats

Tampa Bay
Columbus
2.86 (8) GPG 2.76 (12)
2.59 (12) GAPG 2.60 (14)
18.4% (13) PP% 18.8% (12)
80.8% (22) PK% 82.0% (15)
Valtteri Filppula / Steven Stamkos, 25* G leader Ryan Johansen, 32
Victor Hedman, 42 A leader James Wisniewski, 43
Valtteri Filppula / Ondrej Palat, 58* Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 60
Radko Gudas, 152 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky / Nick Foligno, 96
24-10-6 Home/Road 20-16-3
4/10 vs. Philadelphia, W 4-2 Last Game 4/9 @ Dallas, W 3-1
5-3-2 Last 10 6-3-1

*Martin St. Louis actually had 29 goals and 61 points as a Bolt, but plays for the Rangers now

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