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Game 30 Preview: Return of the Mase

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Steve Mason will be making his first start since mid-November tonight, when the Jackets take on the Canucks at Nationwide Arena.   (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
Steve Mason will be making his first start since mid-November tonight, when the Jackets take on the Canucks at Nationwide Arena. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
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Vancouver Canucks at Columbus Blue Jackets

December 13, 2011 - 7:00pm EST
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM - TV: Fox Sports Ohio
Opponents Blog: Nucks Misconduct
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This is the third meeting between the Jackets and Canucks, with Vancouver winning both contests. The most noticeable discrepancy between these two teams are on special teams-Columbus is at or near the bottom on both the powerplay and penalty kill, while the Canucks are among the league's best in both categories. It's crucial for Columbus to stay out of the box tonight.

R.J. Umberger has been playing his best hockey of the season the past handful of games, and I look for him to have a big night, especially going up against former teammate and rival Ryan Kesler. I'm just going to throw this out there, but I think you'll see James Wisniewski on the scoresheet tonight. While he continues to turn the puck over more than any of us would like, the Jackets will look to pepper the Vancouver goal with pucks all night long, and The Wiz loves to let 'er rip.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets

(8-17-4, 20 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)
Vinny Prospal Jeff Carter Rick Nash
R.J. Umberger
Derick Brassard Ryan Johansen
Antoine Vermette Samuel Pahlsson
Mark Letestu
Dane Byers
Derek MacKenzie
Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin Nikita Nikitin
Marc Methot James Wisniewski
Grant Clitsome John Moore
Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford

Vancouver Canucks
(18-10-1, 37 Points; 2md Division, 6th Conference)

Daniel Sedin Henrik Sedin Alexandre Burrows
Chris Higgins Ryan Kesler Jannik Hansen
Mason Raymond Cody Hodgson Maxim Lapierre
Bill Sweat Manny Malhotra Dale Weise
Dan Hamhuis Kevin Bieksa
Sami Salo Alexander Edler
Aaron Rome Keith Ballard
Roberto Luongo
Corey Schneider

Season Series:

10/10/11 Vancouver 3 at Columbus 2 - RECAP

11/29/11 Columbus 1 at Vancouver 4 - RECAP

By The Numbers:

Scoring
VAN - 3.31 G/G (2nd)
CBJ - 2.38 G/G (27th)

Defense
VAN - 2.41 GA/G (9th)
CBJ - 3.31 GA/G (28th)

Power Play
VAN - 26.4% (1st)
CBJ - 12.6% (27th)

Penalty Kill
VAN - 87.1% (4th)
CBJ - 73.7% (30th)

Game Notes:

  • Steve Mason is back between the pipes for the Jackets. He hasn't played since mid-November due to injury and the solid play of Curtis Sanford. At times it seemed that the Jackets weren't playing for Mase, it will be interesting to see how both Mason, and the team in front of him responds to his return to the cage.
  • Brass is still in the lineup. After sitting out for a month, Derick Brassard will suit up for the third straight game. He has played quite well in my estimation, and I'm looking for him to make the most of his opportunities again tonight.
  • Roberto Luongo is in net for the Canucks, why do I feel like this is an advantage for the Jackets?
  • Dane Byers was called up yesterday from the Springfield Falcons, to replace the grit that Derek Dorsett (who is out with an injury) brings to the game. I expect he and Jared Boll to be wreaking havoc against the Canucks tonight.
  • As I mentioned above, the Canucks are fantastic on special teams. The Jackets will need to be disciplined, avoiding penalties, and if they go on the powerplay they need to pepper Luongo and have a presence in front of the net.

I feel good about this game. Mason will want to prove that he's still the franchise goaltender, and is in-line for a big game. The Jackets' top line will need to be front and center, with the Brassard line pitching-in against the second tier checkers. It's getting to the point where it's too late in the season to make ground, but continued improvement in all areas, leading to a strong finish to the season will invigorate the fanbase and provide hope.