After a frustrating week that began with a an overtime loss in Calgary, the Jackets hope to right the ship as they go into the holiday season with a match at Nationwide against those very same Flames...but it will be a somewhat altered Blue Jackets lineup on the ice tonight.
Due to the NHL's Versus exclusivity window in the US, this is a game with no local TV broadcast, but the Jackets have confirmed that the game will be show on Center Ice and Game Centre Live via the Rogers Sports Net (West) feed. If you don't have Center Ice or GCL, well, I'm reliably informed that R-Bar and other favorite local drinking establishments do...or you could always just buy a ticket and take the ride.
|Game Time: 7:00 pm EST
|TV: Rogers Sports Net (HD)
|Radio: 102.5 WWCD-FM
|Flames vs Blue Jackets coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: Matchsticks & Gasoline
The Flames are coming in on a back to back, having lost last night to the 4-1 to the Minnesota Wild. The good news for the Jackets is that the Flames are 1-4 in the second night of back to back games this year. The bad news is that sole victory came in Columbus, in the not so memorable loss on October 22nd.
For the Jackets, it's a chance to wipe a little of that egg off their face, and take advantage of a team that took a hard loss yesterday, their second in a row - getting on the board early is a chance to get inside their heads, and maybe put a little extra pressure on their backs.
The biggest challenge facing Columbus is offense - the Jackets have actually only allowed 90 goals this year - on par with Detroit, Dallas, and San Jose, and actually better than current playoff seeded teams like Chicago, Anaheim, and Colorado. The problem is that every team in a playoff position except for the Nashville Predators has scored more than 90 goals, while Columbus is stuck at 82 - the fourth lowest in the Western Conference. (Nashville, for the record, has only lit the lamp 83 times, but their GA is a staggeringly good 79 goals - tied with Pittsburgh for the fourth best in the NHL.)
In hopes of finding more production, Scott Arniel has decided to look for a bit of familiarity - reuniting last season's "normal" top line of Antoine Vermette, Kristian Huselius, and Rick Nash, while giving R.J. Umberger a chance to skate with Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek. The biggest problem I see, however, is something that Eric Smith pointed out on the Fox Sports Ohio scouting report: Traffic in the and around the net.
While Eric is specifically focusing on Miikka Kiprusoff, and how the Wild were able to beat him, I think there's a larger point to be considered. As much as I hope to see the Nash/Juice/Twan combo get hot, none of them are really guys who get to the net for second opportunities. Juice tends to like to shoot from the circles or slot, Nash will drive to the net but doesn't like to stay in the crease for long periods, and Vermette tends to circle the crease, but doesn't really set up to provide a screen.
In fact, a lot of our offensive players (har har) tend to be in the "shoot and scoot" mold - Umberger and Sestito will take punishment to set up, but you mostly see them do it on the power play, not in the flow of 5-on-5.
Other fans have talked about the need for veteran presence at times, or for more offensive skill from our D-corps (though it turns out they're actually about in line with the league average), but is that another "X factor" the team lacks? So many teams have gotten goals off of having a guy parked around the crease who gets that lucky tip in, or by grabbing a rebound.
Why aren't we seeing our guys do that?
One other interesting note: It would appear, based on the lineup published in today's Dispatch, that Chris Clark and Kyle Wilson will both be healthy scratches for tonight. Each had a big part in sparking secondary scoring early in the season, but have gone cold of late. Is this a message from the coach to get them to step back up?
Keys To The Game:
- Iggy - Last time these teams met, Jarome Iginla was left to do as he wished on the Saddledome ice - the defense gave him way too much room to work, and he scored both the opening goal and the game winner when he found himself with the puck and a good bit of open space. The Jackets cannot let this happen again. Forecheck, backcheck, pokecheck, cashier's check, I don't care - take away Iginla's time and space and don't let him get his line going.
- Short and Sweet - Given that Calgary is coming off a back to back and a late night flight from Minnesota, the best way to get on top in this game is to keep all four lines rolling with a good bit of energy and aggression. Quick shifts, hard skating, good checking. Wear the Flames down early, take advantage of their fatigue, and then run them right out of the building.
- New Year's Resolution - It's time to start working on what you want to change for the next year, and in the Jackets' case, they need to find the switches for the Power Play and get it working on home ice. There's no better time than tonight to start working on that.
- You Are What You Are - With the NHL's roster freeze in place until the 27th, the team is basically set for the next few games, outside of the possibility of an injury call-up in an emergency situation. I don't actually think that's a bad thing, but it would be nice if the Jackets played with a bit more confidence in the lineup.
Blue Jackets Information:
Columbus Blue Jackets
|Kristian Huselius||Antoine Vermette||Rick Nash|
|R.J. Umberger||Derick Brassard||Jakub Voracek|
|Ethan Moreau||Samuel Pahlsson||Derek Dorsett|
|Tom Sestito||Andrew Murray||Jared Boll|
|Jan Hejda||Fedor Tyutin|
|Rostislav Klesla||Marc Methot|
|Mike Commodore||Kris Russell|
|Alex Tanguay||Matt Stajan||Jarome Iginla|
|Niklas Hagman||Olli Jokinen||Ales Kotalik|
|Curtis Glencross||Brendan Morrison||David Moss|
|Tom Kostopoulos||Craig Conroy||Tim Jackman|
|Robin Regehr||Jay Bouwmeester|
|Mark Giordano||Cory Sarich|
|Anton Babchuk||Adam Pardy|
Tidbit: It seems that Alex Ovechkin hates kittens. Otherwise, locally, if you're interested in getting out to skate, or learning to skate, or both, it looks like the Blendon Woods Metro Park ice skating pond is now open, and the Chillers around town will be having extra public skates during the holiday season!