If you were smart this morning, you looked at the glistening sheen of ice on everything this morning, called your boss, mumbled something about being sick / unable to leave the driveay / dead, hit the snooze bar, and went back to bed.
Some of us were idiots, and we slowly chiseled our cars out of their icy tombs, braved the highways, and fought our way through glacial traffic to make it into work. Aren't we the lucky ones?
For the Jackets and the Blackhawks, it has to be a bit of a reminder that they're back to the NHL, and back to reality, after a weekend that most spend in warmer, sunnier climates. For the Jackets, especially, let's hope it was quite the wake up call.
|Game Time: 7:00 pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: WWCD-FM (102.5)
|Blackhawks vs Blue Jackets coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: Second City Hockey
The Blue Jackets sit 5 points out of a playoff spot at 51 points, and Chicago is the very team they're chasing, currently at 56 points with a 26-20-4 record. (With 7 of those losses, and all four OT/SO losses coming on the road.) If the Jackets are going to fight their way back into the post-season, they'll need to leapfrog one or all of Chicago, Phoenix, San Jose, or Anaheim. (Or, if you're really feeling confident, Nashville, Detroit, Dallas, or Vancouver.) This is the first of 12 crucial games, and they need to come out swinging.
I'm honestly not sure if it's good or bad news that the Hawks are starting Marty Turco tonight. On the one hand, he's 10-10-2 in 25 games this season (4-5-2 on the road), with a 3.02 GAA and a .898 save percentage. On the other, he's 16-4-2 lifetime against the Jackets, mostly as a member of the Dallas Stars, with a 2.14 GAA and a .917 save percentage. For whatever reason, he's always seemed to have Columbus' collective number. Hopefully the additions of Matt Calvert and Grant Clitsome will help to change those numbers up.
It's hard to say what, if any, effect the all star game will have on Chicago head coach Joel Quenville, or his players who took part in the weekend (Keith, Toews, Kane, and MVP Patrick Sharp), but that also leaves 14 other players who will be fresh and ready to go. Both sides are likely to have a lot of jump in this, and speed has been a problem for the Jackets this year. They need to keep their energy up and deliver a hard, physical game, pursuing the puck and making good decisions to help keep up the pressure....oh, and needless to say, given that we're trying to catch the Hawks in the standings, they need to avoid OT.
The Jackets will be without Ethan Moreau, still recovering from busted ribs, and Rusty Klesla, who is still rehabbing the knee he injured against St. Louis.
By contrast, the Blackhawks will get back Marian Hossa, but are likely to miss Ryan Johnson.
Keys To The Game:
- The Pillar Of Autumn - More than anything, the Jackets need to play like the team of October and November than the team of December and January. If they can do that, I think they can come out of tonight in good style - remember that after a rough home opener against the Hawks, the Jackets came back and put a nice hurting on them in the United Center a little over a week later.
- Winter Contingency - With the bad conditions outside, I'm guessing attendance for tonight will suffer. The Jackets need to handle it the same way they've done the last few home games - get the crowd involved early to help make the building a bit less comfortable.
- Weather The Storm - The first 5 minutes tonight are crucial. The Jackets need to keep from being put into a hole - 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, doesn't matter. Both teams will try to get the upper hand early. They need to either score first or keep things even in that crucial first few minutes, then push hard to take control for the rest of the match.
Blue Jackets Information:
|Rick Nash||Derick Brassard||Jakub Voracek|
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Kristian Huselius|
|Derek Dorsett||Samuel Pahlsson||Chris Clark|
|Matt Calvert||Derek MacKenzie||Jared Boll|
|Jan Hejda||Anton Stralman|
|Fedor Tyutin||Marc Methot|
|Grant Clitsome||Kris Russell|
|Troy Brouwer||Jonathan Toews||Patrick Kane|
|Marian Hossa||Patrick Sharp||Tomas Kopecky|
|Brian Bickell||Dave Bolland||Fernando Pisani|
|Viktor Stalberg||Jake Dowell||
|Duncan Keith||Brent Seabrook|
|Jordan Hendry||Nick Leddy|