With tonight's home game against the Blues, the Jackets begin a nasty 6 game stretch - three at home, three on the West coast, two divisional opponents and a pair of division leaders.
With the team looking to continue the trend of bending, rather than breaking, after losses and rebounding with strong efforts in the following game, tonight is an important game. The wins aren't going to be easy, but if they can take two points tonight, it's a big step in the right direction as the Jackets continue to work towards the postseason goal.
Thanks to the small break in the schedule, we were able to give you a good scouting report on tonight's game, so let's just hit a few highlights here.
As mentioned yesterday, Steve Mason gets the start in goal tonight. Mase is a guy who doesn't like to lose - just follow the trail of broken goalie sticks left behind after some of his losses last year for a proof. He's seen Mathieu Garon take away his starting job for the last three games, following a terrible night in Colorado. He's worked hard in practice since, and has been waiting for the chance to come back in and show what he can do against a St. Louis team that has been a thorn in the Jackets' side for the past three years.
The Jackets also dearly need to get their second line going - both Antoine Vermette and Nikita Filatov are on long scoreless streaks. A goal from either player would be great to take pressure off the top line. Derick Brassard has been red hot, but he and Nash can't win games alone.
The Blues will be missing several players due to injury, including David Perron, Barret Jackman, Carlo Colaiacovo, Roman Polak, and Brad Winchester.
Jaroslav Halak has been very good, but he seems to have issues with attacks from the slot, or shooters facing him one on one this year. The team needs to get second and third chances - that's where they'll find goals.
Sammy Pahlsson was not on the ice for the morning skate, but at this time is still probable to play.
If he's out, that turns into a big hole - I would guess that the team would move Umberger into the third line center spot, bring Kyle Wilson up to the second line with Vermette and Filatov, and potentially slot Andrew Murray into the fourth line wing?
Edit: Pahlsson is fine - the skate this morning was changed to an optional and he chose to rest before tonight's game.
Interesting tidbit: If the Jackets can bring 40 or more shots tonight, they would set a franchise record for most games in a season with over 40 shots.
Keys To The Game:
- Score Early - The Jackets are undefeated when they score first. The Blues are nearly undefeated when they score first. (8-1-2) The first goal in this game, whomever comes up with it, will be huge.
- Power Up - The blues are taking an average of 20 minutes in penalties a game, and have given up 8 of their 17 goals against while short handed. The Jackets will almost certainly have the man advantage tonight - they need to make it work for them.
- Home Turf - As we mentioned on Monday, despite being a juggernaut at home, the Blues are .500 on the road, including losses to two divisional opponents. We need to keep them Blues off their game and get the matchups that take the best advantage of St. Louis running with a somewhat patchwork defense. If Pahlsson is questionable for tonight, this is doubly important.
|Game Time: 7:00pm EDT
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: 97.1FM WFAN
|Blues vs Blue Jackets coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: St. Louis Game Time
Blue Jackets Information:
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Nikita Filatov|
|Andy MacDonald||David Backes||T. J. Oshie|
|Alex Steen||Patrik Berglund||Brad Boyes|
|Matt D'Agostini||Jay McClement||B. J. Crombeen|
|Ian Cole||Vladimir Sobotka||Cam Janssen|
|Eric Brewer||Erik Johnson|
|Nikita Nikitin||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Nathan Oystrick|| Tyson Strachan