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Game Preview #47 - Sunny Outlook?

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The Jackets travel to sunny Florida--I'm guessing no freezing rain there, this morning--to take on the Panthers as they look to once again climb to .500 for the season while welcoming back Artem Anisimov.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets at Florida Panthers

January 29, 2015 - 7:30 pm EST
BB&T Center - Sunrise, Florida
Radio - WWCD 102.5 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Litter Box Cats

OK, a few things first:

1) WELCOME BACK, ARTY! Artem Anisimov is back, after missing a boat-load of games (23, to be exact) with a torn triceps. He draws in on the third line, bumping Alex Wennberg to wing. I am very OK with this move, though I might have flip flopped and let Arty draw in at wing. Either way, I'm glad they're both in the lineup.

2) In the interest of fairness after reflecting on the ebb and flow of the whole Boll discussion, I think it's important to note that I simply don't get why Corey Tropp gets moved up to a scoring line. One nice pass to Letestu? Really? I'll be interested to see how long this lasts, as I find it to be a silly move overall, as Tropp is not much less of a possession anchor than is Boll. He's another guy that I am just not seeing what the club must see in him. And that doesn't even get into my personal biases against him (simply Google "corey tropp steve kampfer" if you don't know that story). This does not bode well for Jack Skille's future in Columbus past even the trading deadline, one would think.

3) Even though it's not a likely outcome, until it's mathematically done, let's look at the standings. The Jackets are 12 points out of a playoff spot. BUT... Florida sits in ninth place, just five points in front of Columbus, though they have a game in hand. To get into the discussion for 8th, Columbus first needs to pass the four teams in front of them also behind Boston:
Philadelphia - 47 points, 49 games played
Ottawa - 47 points, 46 games played
Toronto - 48 points, 49 games played
Florida - 50 points, 45 games played

Those teams are all easily catchable, as Columbus is just three points behind three of them, and has games in hand on two of them. Baby steps, people. Tonight is the chance for a proverbial four-pointer, and could put all five teams within three points of each other. The logjam for first loser!

At any rate, it's been awhile since these teams last met, with Columbus sweeping a home-and-home, the latter of which was That Game With The 55 Shots that Columbus somehow stole in a shootout after being completely run over en route to blowing an early second period 3-0 lead. Let's not see that again, please.

Florida has lost five in a row (0-4-1), and eight of 12 (4-6-2) as they've fallen off the playoff pace. If Columbus can come out and drive play like they did for most of the last half of the game Tuesday against the Caps, they should be able to come out ahead on Special Teams as well. This would be a recipe for success!

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(21-22-3, 45 Points; 6th division, 13th conference)

Nick Foligno Ryan Johansen Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell Brandon Dubinsky Corey Tropp
Alexander Wennberg Artem Anisimov Josh Anderson
Matt Calvert Mark Letestu Jared Boll
Jack Johnson David Savard
Kevin Connauton James Wisniewski
Fedor Tyutin Dalton Prout
Curtis McElhinney
Anton Forsberg

Florida Panthers
(20-15-10, 50 Points; 5th Division, 9th Conference)

Jonathan Huberdeau Aleksander Barkov Brad Boyes
Brandon Pirri Nick Bjugstad Jimmy Hayes
Sean Bergenheim Dave Bolland Jussi Jokinen
Tomas Kopecky Derek MacKenzie Shawn Thornton
Brian Campbell Aaron Ekblad
Willie Mitchell Dmitry Kulikov
Erik Gudbranson Alex Petrovic
Roberto Luongo
Al Montoya

Season Series

FLA - 0-1-1
CBJ - 2-0-0

12/01/14 - Florida 1 at Columbus 2
12/04/14 - Columbus 4 at Florida 3 (SO)
01/29/15 - Columbus at Florida

Head to Head Stats

Florida Columbus
2.36 (25) GPG 2.46 (24)
2.69 (19) GAPG 3.13 (26)
14.5% (27) PP% 23.6% (4)
81.6% (15) PK% 79.9% (21)
Nick Bjugstad, 16 G leader Nick Foligno / Ryan Johansen, 18
Aaron Ekblad / Jussi Jokinen, 21 A leader Nick Foligno / Ryan Johansen, 26
Nick Bjugstad, 29 Pts leader Nick Foligno / Ryan Johansen, 44
Erik Gudbranson, 40 PIM leader Jared Boll, 65
9-8-4 Home/Road 11-10-1
4-5-1 Last 10 5-5-0
1/27 vs. Detroit, L 5-4 Last Game 1/27 vs. Washington, W 4-3