It has been almost three weeks since the Union Blue has skated on home ice, what with the six-game road trip on either side of a week for the All Star Break.
It's a different sort of homecoming for coach Todd Richards and winger Colton Gillies, who are facing their former team for the first time in their new capacities. Columbus is coming off a rousing overtime win in Anaheim on Friday, with Derick Brassard carrying the torch with two goals including the OT winner. Friday also saw the return of Jeff Carter. As to whether he's "back" versus "auditioning for trade partners," who can say definitively?
The Jackets are hoping to get healthier in the near future, with James Wisniewski, Nikita Nikitin, and Mark Letestu all nearing operational status. In the meantime, Todd Richards is hinting that the lineup will stay the same as it was from Anahiem, minus Brett Lebda (thumb). Ryan Johansen appears to be sitting for his third straight game.
With Lebda out, it reshuffles the D pairs yet again. Lost in the injury melee is that John Moore stepped up and logged his career-high in minutes on Friday night. As he gets more and more responsibilities, it's hard not to feel the urge to check his development as one of the few bright spots of this otherwise horrid season.
The Wild have leveled off over the last six weeks or so, having slipped from near the top of the conference to the last playoff spot currently. Since starting out 20-7-3 through December 10, the Wild have won just five times in 22 games (5-12-5). They are, as usual, struggling to score goals, currently sitting next to last in the league on offense. This is the third and final game of a road trip for the Wild, though they've been off since Saturday. In injury news, the Wild may still be without center Mikko Koivu, who has missed seven straight with a shoulder injury.
Can the Jackets string more than one win together? It's called a winning streak. It's happened before.
Columbus Blue Jackets
(14-32-6, 34 Points; 5th division, 15th conference)
|R.J. Umberger||Derick Brassard||Rick Nash|
|Vinny Prospal||Jeff Carter||Colton Gillies|
|Antoine Vermette||Samuel Pahlsson||Derek Dorsett|
|Ryan Russell||Derek MacKenzie||Jared Boll|
|Fedor Tyutin||Aaron Johnson|
|Marc Methot||John Moore|
|Grant Clitsome||David Savard|
(25-19-8, 58 Points; 2nd Division, 8th Conference)
|Nick Johnson||Kyle Brodziak||Dany Heatley|
|Cal Clutterbuck||Matt Cullen||Devin Setoguchi|
|Darroll Powe||Erik Christensen||Carson McMillan|
|Jed Ortmeyer||Warren Peters||Brad Staubitz|
|Nick Schultz||Jared Spurgeon|
|Justin Falk||Nate Prosser|
|Marek Zidlicky||Greg Zanon|
Head to Head
Minnesota Columbus 2.23 (29) GPG 2.25 (28) 2.44 (8) GAPG 3.25 (29) 14.6% (24) PP% 14.5% (25) 82.7% (14) PK% 75.4% (30) Dany Heatley, 17 G leader Rick Nash, 17 Mikko Koivu, 24 A leader Vinny Prospal, 23 Dany Heatley, 38 Pts leader Rick Nash, 34 Brad Staubitz, 65 PIM leader Derek Dorsett, 130 12-12-5 Road/Home 8-13-3 2/4 @ Dallas, L 2-1 (SO) Last Game 2/3 @ Anahiem, W 3-2 (OT) 4-4-2 Last 10 3-6-1
- Downright Offensive - It's not often that we see games in which the Blue Jackets have the overall lead in *any* of the four major stat categories above. However, Minnesota's offense is just bad enough to give the Jackets the edge heading into this game. Columbus is starting (I mean, barely starting) to get healthy, so perhaps we're slated to see an uptick in offense with Todd Richards behind the bench and with some of his tweaks. Having Jeff Carter back and motivated--even if only to get himself out of Columbus--would certainly help with the offense. For the Wild, if Koivu can't go, it makes it that much tougher. Mike Yeo has taken to splitting up Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in an attempt to get more firepower spread out through the lineup to make it tougher for opposing defenses. It hasn't necessarily worked.
- Joey on the Shelf - Ryan Johansen again looks to be the healthy scratch tonight, for the third straight game. While it can be argued that the past two games have seen positive effort levels from the Columbus forwards, I'm starting to wonder what Johansen is--or is NOT--doing to keep him on the shelf. I have no information about this and am NOT trying to start a rumor; I just hope it's not another Derick Brassard situation where he's being buried for subjective reasons.
- Clutter-BuckYOU!! - Tonight marks the second return of Cal "Defenseless" Clutterbuck since goading James Wisniewski into the pre-season hit that altered the Blue Jackets' start to the season in a large way. I'm not saying that the 8-game suspension to Wiz is the reason the Jackets are last in the league. I'm saying it certainly didn't help. Clutterbuck also managed the game-winner the last time these two teams met with a nasty point shot that beat a hapless Steve Mason. Note to the Jackets: maybe don't let him into yer base to kill yer dudz anymore.
The Jackets should be able to play with this team. Whether they can score enough--and play solid enough defense with their patchwork blue-line--is the big question. With enough cushion on 29th place at the moment, I'd love to see a winning streak for once.