With twelve games left in their seasons, neither the Blue Jackets or the Minnesota Wild are where they want to be.
Both teams had roller-coaster seasons after returning from trips to Europe, the Jackets rising, the Wild falling, until reversing their progress, recovering from tailspins, and finally falling back down once again.
Both clubs are more than six points out of a playoff spot at this point, and though they still fight for a chance to make it through the door, they can't be blamed for starting to look at next season, and what they will do differently.
Despite that, however, there is still a chance, and with Columbus leading the season series between them, including their previous matchup at the Xcel Energy Center, the Wild are likely looking to grab another win at home to even the scales.
|Game Time: 2:00 pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: 97.1 WFAN
|Blue Jackets vs Wild coverage|
Opponent's Blog: Hockey Wilderness
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the last week for the Blue Jackets is that they haven't been playing that badly - they just haven't been able to get the bounces to put pucks into the net.
The game against Detroit came down to two bad turnovers, and Joey MacDonald having an incredible game. Boston came down to Tuukka Rask being an exceptional goaltender.
It's weeks like this that make you reach for the Maalox, but also give you some hope for what will come in the future. There's a good team under there - they just need to find those last pieces of the puzzle, and there's a strong chance that they will finish with the second best win and point total in franchise history...they just aren't likely to break through that final barrier.
Keys To The Game:
- Momentum Shift - Both the Jackets and the Wild are on losing streaks, but the Wild are in a bit deeper rut, having lost their last four games. The Jackets need to follow the same game plan they've used against the Wild this year, getting on top early, frustrating their offense, and playing strong away from the puck.
- Win The Second Period - Both the Jackets and the Wild have problems with second period slumps that have given their opponents a chance to take over the game. This season, the Wild in particular are getting outscored 65 to 51, and give up almost a third more shots in the second period than they take.
- Avoid the Box - With the exception of the power play goal given up to Detroit on Friday, the Jackets' PK unit has been strong of late, but they are facing a team with the 7th best power play unit in the NHL, and they've burned the Jackets this year with the man advantage.
Even if the Jackets don't make a Herculean push and manage to catch Calgary, little milestones like winning the season series vs. the Wild are good for both the standings and the ego, particularly with a game the next day vs. New Jersey.
Go out, win the battles, play like you've been playing, and find that finish. Make us proud, boys.
Blue Jackets Information:
|Rick Nash||Jakub Voracek|
|Matt Calvert||Antoine Vermette||R.J. Umberger|
|Derek Dorsett||Samuel Pahlsson||Scottie Upshall|
|Ethan Moreau||Jared Boll|
|Jan Hejda||Sami Lepisto|
|Fedor Tyutin||Marc Methot|
|Grant Clitsome||Kris Russell|
|Andrew Brunette||Mikko Koivu||Antti Miettinen|
|Pierre-Marc Bouchard||Kyle Brodziak||Martin Havlat|
|Matt Cullen||John Madden||Cal Clutterbuck|
|Chuck Kobasew||Eric Nystrom||Brad Staubitz|
|Nick Schultz||Brent Burns|
|Greg Zanon||Clayton Stoner|
|Marco Scandella||Jared Spurgeon|
Tidbit: Our thoughts and prayers are with former Jacket Manny Malhotra, injured on Thursday night by a puck to the face, and currently facing surgery. We hope for a full and speedy recovery.