Time to suck back and reload. The Jackets return home to face the Coyotes tonight, and Columbus is looking to start with a clean slate. Ken Hitchcock has said in the past that he divides the season into 10 game segments, this being the eleventh game of the seaon means that this is the first game of the second segment. The first bunch of games leaves the Jackets with a record of 6-4-0, putting them in ninth place in the West, and second in the Central Division.
The 6-4 record is not terrible, but the issue lies with the four losses. The Jackets gave up a total of 24 goals against in those four games, and weren't really involved in any. The problem is defensive zone play. They have shown an ability to put the puck in the net, but at times (a majority of times) the play in their own zone has been atrocious. A lot of that has to do with the early season loss of Mike Commodore, who has since returned, and of course the loss of Jan Hejda. Those two make up the best defensive blueliners on the team, and their being out of the lineup exposed the Jackets as a whole. Combine that with the less-than-stellar play of Steve Mason, and the Jackets are in need of some serious fine-tuning when it comes to playing defense.
The game tonight against the Dogs is their first game since Sunday- giving them almost three days off. Aaron Portzline at the Dispatch reports that the team has been working on defensive zone play, and goaltending coach Dave Rook has joined the team to work with Mason and Garon. I fully expect the Jackets to come out hard, banging bodies and finishing checks.
An interesting note regarding the lineup is that Nikita Filatov has impressed the coaching staff enough lately to give him more playing time. He'll at least start the game on the second line with Antoine Vermette and Jakub Voracek. The Killer Vees have been on fire of late, and adding a skilled guy to the defensively responsible pairing of Vermmy and Jake could make for a fantastic line. Derick Brassard however, remains on the fourth line with Torres and the now-healthy Jared Boll. Look for Boller to mix it up often tonight. He's going to want to make an impression.
Andrew Murray is on the IR with a shoulder injury, and will miss four weeks. This leaves Mike Blunden as the only spare forward. Jan Hejda is close to returning, but Marc Methot should return to the lineup after missing the last game. Mathieu Roy will likely join Blunden in the press box.
The Coyotes have an identical record as the Jackets, sitting at 6-4 as well. Both teams got off to hot starts, but are slipping of late. This will make for a very competitive game as both teams are trying to right the ship. My worry is that if the Jackets fall behind early, even by just a goal or two, Phoenix will immediatly activate the Trap, which has carried them so far this season. Let's hope that the Jackets can pot a couple of quick ones and prevent the Coyotes from going into shutdown mode, which not only makes for terrible hockey but will also likely lead to Coyotes victory.
Fearless Prediction- Mase looks to impress after being disappointing thus far, and pitches a shutout with Dave Rook watching intently.
Game Time: 7:00pm ET
Opponent's Blog: Five For Howling
Game Page: Coyotes vs Blue Jackets Coverage
TV: FSN Ohio
Radio: WBNS-AM (1460); WWCD-FM (101.1)
More after the jump...
From the Columbus Dispatch:
The Blue Jackets will try to shore up their defensive-zone play after a four-game trip in which they allowed 22 goals. After being the NHL's stingiest defensive club the first three weeks of the season, the Coyotes have allowed five goals to the Kings and Rangers in their past two games. The Blue Jackets won 2-0 on the road Oct. 10. The Coyotes outshot the Blue Jackets 36-19 but were 0 of 7 on the penalty kill.
Here are the lineups for tonight's tilt:
Columbus Blue Jackets
|Kristian Huselius||RJ Umberger||Rick Nash|
|Nikita Filatov||Antoine Vermette||Jakub Voracek|
|Jason Chimera||Sammy Pahlsson||Derek Dorsett|
|Raffi Torres||Derick Brassard||Jared Boll|
|Fedor Tytuin||Anton Stralman|
|Mike Commodore||Kris Russell|
|Marc Methot||Rostislav Klesla|
|EXTRA: Mike Blunden, Mathieu Roy|
|INJURED: Fredrik Modin, Andrew Murray, Jan Hejda|
|Vernon Fiddler||Robert Lang||Shane Doan|
|Petr Prucha||Matt Lombardi||Peter Mueller|
|Scottie Upshall||Martin Hanzal||Radim Vrbata|
|Taylor Pyatt||Daniel Winnik||Lauri Korpikoski|
|Jim Vandermeer||Keith Yandle|
|Adrian Aucoin|| Zbynek Michalek |
|Ed Jovonovski||Sami Lepisto|
|EXTRA: Paul Bissonette, Sean Sullivan|