Win and you're in.
It really is that simple.
First and foremost, Godspeed, Rich Peverley. Everyone is still so very thankful that you're OK and that things weren't so, so much worse on March 10. I just wanted to enter that into the record, lest the following two paragraphs are misunderstood in their tone.
Heavenly God, NHL. What the hell were you thinking? When this game was announced, I know many of us in Columbus were a bit flummoxed at what the Jackets had done to piss off the powers-that-be in Toronto. Already playing a stretch of 13 games in 24 days--including four back-to-backs--the schedulers decided that plopping this game right in the middle of that stretch (while also adding ANOTHER back-to-back) and giving Columbus a season finish of four games in five days--in four different cities, no less--was just fine.
Again, I understand that the circumstances surrounding the original game were unique, and I certainly am not directing any anger toward Dallas, Rich Peverley, or anything of that ilk. But, seriously, NHL? Cumong, mannn.
At any rate, here we are. Despite that brutal schedule, the Jackets have actually all but nailed down a playoff spot amidst some turbulence: a 6-4-1 record during the first 11 games of that 14 game stretch--combined with some serious pants-crapping from the likes of Toronto, Washington, and even New Jersey on Monday--has put them in control of their own destiny.
Win--no matter how--and the Jackets punch their ticket to the post-season for just the second time EVER.
Oh, and also, the Jackets start this game with a 1-0 lead, courtesy of Nathan Horton's goal back on March 10. So, Horton's already in the box score from the press box, as I can't envision a scenario in which he plays tonight due to the reinjury of his lower body (for lack of a better term) last night.
Both teams played last night, and both teams went to overtime (with both winning), so while Columbus had to travel, it's not as though Dallas was maxing and relaxing yesterday waiting for them. That said, Dallas will be hungry tonight, as their two points combined with Phoenix only getting one has put them in a position to put the hammer down on the Yotes with two more points tonight.
So, yeah, points tonight will be very important for both teams. It's very interesting how this schedule played out with respect to that race for the final spot in the West and the Jackets' role in it even though they've moved to the East.
Some other changes from the previous iteration of this game: Kari Lehtonen is back in for Dallas, and presumably will start, given the importance of the game. For the Jackets, well, who knows what the actual lineup will look like? Below is my guess, though admittedly it's mostly a copy of last night's lineup with Jared Boll inserted on the fourth line and Jack Skille getting promoted to the top line in Horton's absence.
None of it matters. Win and you're in. It's just. That. Easy.
Columbus Blue Jackets
(41-31-7, 89 Points; 4th division, 8th conference)
|Boone Jenner||Ryan Johansen||Jack Skille|
|Matt Calvert||Brandon Dubinsky||Cam Atkinson|
|Blake Comeau||Artem Anisimov||Mark Letestu|
|Corey Tropp||Derek MacKenzie||Jared Boll|
|Fedor Tyutin||James Wisniewski|
|Jack Johnson||Dalton Prout|
|Ryan Murray||David Savard|
(39-29-11, 89 Points; 5th division, 8th conference)
|Jamie Benn||Tyler Seguin||Valeri Nichushkin|
|Antoine Roussel||Cody Eakin||Ryan Garbutt|
|Shawn Horcoff||Vernon Fiddler||Colton Sceviour|
|Erik Cole||Dustin Jeffrey||Alex Chiasson|
|Alex Goligoski||Trevor Daley|
|Jordie Benn||Brenden Dillon|
|Patrick Nemeth||Sergei Gonchar|
Head to Head Stats
Dallas Columbus 2.86 (8) GPG 2.76 (12) 2.76 (20) GAPG 2.63 (15) 15.4% (25) PP% 18.6% (13) 81.0% (21) PK% 82.2% (14) Tyler Seguin, 36 G leader Ryan Johansen, 32 Tyler Seguin, 46 A leader James Wisniewski, 42 Tyler Seguin, 82 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 59 Antoine Roussel, 195 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky / Nick Foligno, 96 22-10-7 Home/Road 19-16-3 4/8 vs. Nashville, W 3-2 (SO) Last Game 4/8 vs. Phoenix, W 4-3 (OT) 7-3-0 Last 10 5-4-1