When is a game not just a game?
Usually, it's decided on after the fact, when players or fans say it was a "turning point" for the season. A "Statement" win. A loss that becomes "The nail in the coffin."
A little over a month and a half ago, the Blue Jackets thought that their upcoming series against Detroit had the potential to be one of those games. At the time, the winner was looking at first place in the central division - first place in the Western Conference, in fact.
The Jackets put up a pair of good efforts, but couldn't quite solve the Wings, and while the Red Wings took that momentum forward, the Jackets began a badly inconsistent month of December, culminating in the recent slide.
Tonight is a chance to look at themselves and regain some of that swagger they lost with a win, but it's not just the players who want tonight to carry more than the normal importance...
|Game Time: 7:00 pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: 97.1 WFAN
|Red Wings vs Blue Jackets coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: Winging It In Motown
Players putting money on the board for a win, a game winning goal or a shutout is not unusual. Occasionally, even coaches do it. (And sometimes they get fined for it, as in the case of Ron Wilson and the NHL being rather silly.) But this is the first time I'm aware of fans ever working to put money on the board that I've been aware of.
It started on Twitter, where a fan told 97.1's Lori Schidmt that he would give money to the favorite charity of the Blue Jacket who scored a game winning goal tonight and / or Saturday.
Lori promoted it, and quickly it caught wildfire. Fans pledged money. They pledged to take part in charity runs. They pledged to give blood. The R-Bar put out a donation bucket with the promise that the money would go to the Blue Jackets Foundation with a win, or a soup kitchen should the Wings win. At last count, pledges on Twitter were up to over $4000.
Even better, the Blue Jackets have committed to putting the name and dollar amount of each pledge up in the locker room tonight and tomorrow, so that the team knows that their fans are behind them.
The fans cannot make a win happen just by wanting it, but you have to think that the boys are going to have some powerful motivation behind them tonight.
Keys To The Game:
- Walking Wounded - The Wings come in without Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Stuart, Dan Cleary, and Mike Modano. Henrik Zetterburg is playing, but is having lower back issues and has already waived off attending the all star game in favor of rehab. (Chris Osgood is also on the shelf, but let's face it, that may actually help them...) For the Jackets, Rick Nash has been playing through an unspecified lower body injury for the past three weeks. Nash not being 100% is a problem, but if the team can commit to outworking Detroit, there's good reason to think they can take advantage of those absences.
- It Starts At The Dot - One of the biggest problems for the Jackets in their last few games has been faceoffs. They went from a team that was controlling over 60% of the faceoffs during their run in November to controlling less than 40% during the skid. Taking control of the puck from the earliest opportunities is vital, particularly against Detroit, the past masters of puck possession.
- Get In The Kitchen And Make Me Some Goals - Fancy passing plays look great on TV, but they're not so good for scoring. In the past, the best success against Howard has been redirections or screens. Get into the crease, cause some trouble, and make things happen. By contrast, do not allow Tomas Holmstrom or Todd Bertuzzi to use the ice in front of Steve Mason as a parking spot - clear the crease, and give Mase the best opportunity to make saves.
Blue Jackets Information:
|Rick Nash||Derick Brassard||Jakub Voracek|
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Kristian Huselius|
|Derek Dorsett||Samuel Pahlsson||Chris Clark|
|Matt Calvert||Kyle Wilson||Jared Boll|
|Jan Hejda||Fedor Tyutin|
|Rostislav Klesla||Marc Methot|
|Grant Clitsome||Kris Russell|
|Johan Franzen||Henrik Zetterberg||Tomas Holmstrom|
|Jiri Hudler||Valtteri Filppula||Todd Bertuzzi|
|Kris Draper||Darren Helm||Patrick Eaves|
|Drew Miller||Justin Abdelkader||
|Nicklas Lidstrom||Niklas Kronwall|
|Jakub Kindl||Ruslan Salei|
Tidbit: Tonight is Tyler Wright's 10th anniversary alumni game. Maybe the Jackets can celebrate it with a hat trick...or failing that, a line brawl. Also, reports are that tonight could be a sellout...and unfortunately that probably means a fair bit of Wings fans. Don't do anything stupid, but do what you can to make sure this is OUR HOUSE tonight.