This afternoon marks the start of a crucial five game roadie for the Jackets. They play in Nashville today, then head to Western Canada for games against the Canucks, Oilers and Flames. They finish the trip in St. Louis, before heading back to Ohio for four of the next five games.
Columbus has always struggled to win in Nashville. The Preds are a team the Jackets are fighting with to gain entry into the playoffs. The Preds sit two points and two spots in the standings ahead of the Jackets. These are things we know.
Newcomer Craig Rivet is going to be brought up to speed, both physically and tactically before sliding into the lineup. Look for the same lineup as the past few games for the Jackets, with Steve Mason getting the start. He has been one of the NHL's hottest goaltenders in the past month or so, and something I love to see is his relaxed body language after letting in a goal. He has regained the confidence of his teammates and coaches. He is focused, and making it look easy out there. In short, Mase is back.
I'm looking for a big game from the plumbing crew tonight, namely Clark, Dorsett, Boller, Moreau, Pahlsson and Murr-Dogg. Our bottom six is a hard working group, and when they supply energy and are aggressive on the forecheck, it puts the opposition out of sync and allows the scorers to work their magic. A goal from the bottom six will go a long way. Looking at Moreau to get on the scoresheet. He's been buzzing around the net and has been looking "shot" almost every time. He's due.
This is going to be a classic Columbus-Nashville game, only this time both teams have something to play for. Hopefully the fact it's an afternoon game doesn't diminish the intensity, because this one has the makings of a physical, playoff-like affair.
What has been the biggest surprise in the last month?
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Derek MacKenzie making the most of his chance to center a scoring line.
Steve Mason's strong play in the cage.
The team's ability win without Brassard, Huselius or Klesla in the lineup.
Anton Stralman scoring a goal.