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Game Preview #44 - Ghost Pepper Down?

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Have we reached the end of the Ghost Pepper Era?

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets at Minnesota Wild

January 19th, 2015 - 8:00pm EST
XCel Energy Center - St. Paul, Minnesota
Radio - WWCD 102.5 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Hockey Wilderness

I have to say something that made me smile and shake my head all at once: when it was announced that Jack Skille was back in the lineup tonight, and that he was taking line rushes this morning in place of Jared Boll, no less than three people texted or e-mailed me. This thing has taken on a life of its own.

I like Jared Boll as a human being. He's a funny guy, he's always been very nice to me when I've talked to him in the dressing room, and he's much, MUCH better at hockey than I could ever hope to be in the next five lifetimes.

That said, it was more than overdue for him to take a seat for a game or two. I know that when the e-mail came around that Skille was back, my first assumption was that Josh Anderson would sit, just because. I have to say it appears I will be wrong in that assumption, and I couldn't be happier.

That said, my sphincter won't totally relax until the puck drops and Boll is sitting in the press box. Again, nothing personal, Jared. I just don't want to shit blood for a week.

With that having been said, I think that I've learned something along the way, too. We've had a lot of fun at the expense of this whole thing, and I can't just walk away from it. I've decided to make this into a charity item. Assuming Boll sits out tonight and the Ghost Pepper Challenge comes to a merciful end, I will pick up another mantle and make it the Ghost Pepper Charity Challenge: for every game that Boll plays in this season, I will donate $5 to the Blue Jackets Foundation.

On to the game (oh yeah, there's actually a game!). Some weird symmetry: the last time these two teams met, the Jackets were coming off a win against Boston that stopped a losing skid (albeit just at one game last time). The Wild are probably one of the most underperforming teams in the league, as their goaltending merry-go-round has stifled any real chance to compete; they currently sit last in the Central and 12th of 14 teams in the West. With the firepower and star power they have, this is a big disappointment. They have won two in a row, but that was against Buffalo and Arizona--hardly the beacons of light in the league--and came on the heels of losing six in a row (0-5-1). In fact, they've won just four of their last 16 games (4-8-4) which has all but knocked them out of the playoff race.

Columbus has played well for their past two, and looks to build off of a pretty nice win in Beantown the other night. The new look lines have generated much better offensive output, and swapping Skille in for Boll can only help there. Columbus has two more games before the All Star Break, and a chance to go into the break at .500. It starts tonight!

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(19-21-3, 41 Points; 6th division, 13th conference)

Nick Foligno Ryan Johansen Jeremy Morin
Scott Hartnell Brandon Dubinsky Josh Anderson
Matt Calvert Alexander Wennberg Cam Atkinson
Corey Tropp Mark Letestu Jack Skille
Jack Johnson David Savard
Kevin Connauton James Wisniewski
Fedor Tyutin Dalton Prout
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Minnesota Wild
(20-19-5, 45 Points; 7th Division, 12th Conference)

Zach Parise Mikko Koivu Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker Erik Haula Thomas Vanek
Ryan Carter Charlie Coyle Nino Niederreiter
Matt Cooke Kyle Brodziak Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter Jonas Brodin
Jared Spurgeon Matt Dumba
Marco Scandella Christian Folin
Devan Dubnyk
Niklas Backstrom

Season Series

12/31/41 - Minnesota 1 at Columbus 3
1/19/15 - Columbus at Minnesota

Head to Head Stats

Minnesota Columbus
2.75 (15) GPG 2.46 (24)
2.91 (24) GAPG 3.16 (26)
14.7% (26) PP% 24.7% (3)
84.1% (8) PK% 79.2% (22)
Zach Parise / Jason Zucker, 16 G leader Nick Foligno, 18
Jason Pominville, 27 A leader Ryan Johansen, 26
Jason Pominville, 36 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 43
Ryan Carter, 48 PIM leader Jared Boll, 63
11-6-5 Home/Road 10-9-1
3-6-1 Last 10 5-5-0
1/17 vs. Arizona, W 3-1 Last Game 1/17 @ Boston, W 3-1