This will be interesting.
The Blue Jackets have won two in a row, perhaps calmed some of the panic (yes, I'm looking at myself in the mirror when I say this) emanating from the fan-base, and are now just one game from the .500 mark yet again. However, winning a game over the Devils is one thing; the Maple Leafs bring an entirely different plane of offense into Nationwide tonight.
Toronto hasn't exactly been struggling to score goals, and they also get forward David Clarkson back from suspension tonight. You may remember Clarkson getting a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench during a fight in the pre-season. Well, his suspension is served, which means he'll be back tonight.
For the Jackets, expect the same lineup from Tuesday, with the possible exception of Jared Boll, who is out of morning skate as of this writing (expect updates later). If Boller can't go, Cody Bass was skating with the fourth line this morning.
The Leafs are on the front end of a back-to-back, and are expected to start Jonathan Bernier in net. For the Jackets, Sergei Bobrovsky will again get the start after a solid outing on Tuesday.
I thought the Jackets played some pretty solid defense on Tuesday at even strength. That said, the Devils aren't exactly known for their offense. The Leafs, on the other hand, bring the funk. They're super-fast, and if we remember the start against Montreal, that can prove tough for the Jackets to get used to at the outset.
The Leafs are top-five in offense overall, and their Power Play is the second best in the league at the moment behind only Washington. And, that's a big area of concern: the Jackets' PK has been, how you say, not so good of late. They've allowed a PPG in five straight games, and are only killing off an awful 68.4% of their penalties over that span. Conversely, the Leafs have scored a PPG in eight of their 10 games thus far, and have scored multiple PPGs in three of those games.
Ugh. I fear this is where this game is going to be won or lost. Toronto has 11 PPGs against 20 EV goals. In other words, they score a HUGE percent of their goals on the Power Play. So, if the Jackets can stay out of the box, and can buckle down on the PK, I like their chances overall. That said, it would include bucking a current trend on the PK for this Jackets team.
Finally, I remember the last time the Leafs came to town in the fall of 2011. Obviously, the score was brutal, but what was also disheartening was the amount of Maple Leafs fans in the building. It's a weekend game, so I expect that again. I would estimate there were six or seven THOUSAND Leafs fans that night. If ever there was a night to #DefendNWA, it's tonight, people.
[Update] - Portzline is reporting that Leafs' wing--and leading goal scorer--Joffrey Lupul has a bone bruise and is questionable for tonight. Every little bit helps (and before anyone chirps, I mean that in the sense of "taking their best goal scorer off the ice" not "man am I glad someone is hurt").
Columbus Blue Jackets
(4-5-0, 8 Points; 5th division, 11th conference)
|Nick Foligno||Artem Anisimov||Marian Gaborik|
|Boone Jenner||Brandon Dubinsky||Cam Atkinson|
|Blake Comeau||Ryan Johansen||R.J. Umberger|
|Mark Letestu||Derek MacKenzie||Jared Boll|
|Fedor Tyutin||Dalton Prout|
|Jack Johnson||David Savard|
|Ryan Murray||James Wisniewski|
Toronto Maple Leafs
(7-3-0, 14 Points; 2nd division, 3rd conference)
|James van Riemsdyk||Tyler Bozak||Phil Kessel|
|Mason Raymond||Dave Bolland||David Clarkson|
|Jay McClement||Nazem Kadri||Joffrey Lupul|
|Troy Bodie||Trevor Smith||Colton Orr|
|Carl Gunnarsson||Dion Phaneuf|
|Morgan Rielly||Cody Franson|
|Paul Ranger||Jake Gardiner|
10/25/13 - Toronto at Columbus
11/25/13 - Columbus at Toronto
03/03/14 - Columbus at Toronto
Head to Head Stats
Toronto Columbus 3.30 (5) GPG 2.44 (21) 2.40 (8) GAPG 2.56 (10) 28.2% (2) PP% 21.2% (12) 86.8% (4) PK% 75.9% (25) Joffrey Lupul, 6 G leader Marian Gaborik, 4 Cody Franson, 8 A leader James Wisniewski, 6 Phil Kessel, 11 Pts leader Marian Gaborik, 9 Colton Orr, 26 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky, 15 3-1-0 Road/Home 2-2-0 10/22 vs. Anaheim, W 4-2 Last Game 10/22 vs. New Jersey, W 4-1 7-3-0 Last 10 4-5-0