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Game Preview #5 - It Has To Be This Difficult

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It's gut-check time for the Jackets. Stop me if you've heard me say this before, but.... I. have. a. theory.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

There ain't no way but the hard way / get used to it.

Here is the chorus of an old Jackets' goal song, "The Hard Way" by Airborne. It was a time when they were trying to establish an identity as a hard-nosed, hard working team. Blue collars. Lunch pails. There's no way but the hard way to do things, so you'd better get used to it.

It was supposed to be directed at their opponents: you can't beat us unless you outwork us, and there's no other way. You'd better get used to it. But, I think the message should actually be directed inward: hey, Blue Jackets, you are never successful unless you play the hard way.

Here's my theory: things came too easy in the pre-season.

The Jackets had a pretty high-profile summer. They finished last season on a 15-1-1 run, which is enough to puff anyone's chest out. They then added Brandon Saad via trade, and they added him to a now-healthy roster that looked like it could do some damage. They heard all summer about how good they could be, and if you read some reporting they actually had some strong beliefs about how good they could be. They came out in the pre-season, and once their final lineup was iced they just flat-out demolished some good teams, twice smoking Nashville to the combined tune of 12-3, and beating Pittsburgh on the road 4-2.

Things were going well, but they were going well without too much work. Things came easy. Too easy, I believe.

Then, when things got tough to start the season--and blowing that late lead against New York on opening night certainly qualifies--the Jackets all of a sudden had some adversity. They hadn't had any to that point, and they maybe believed a little too much of their own hype going in. Saturday came, they got blitzed early, and all of a sudden nothing made sense. It wasn't coming easy. They pushed back, but made no head-way.

In short, they haven't yet found the success in the regular season, in part because they haven't mustered up the hard work methodology to get there. One win will breed some confidence. They'll get a sense of how hard they have to work to get it. They will work through it... THE HARD WAY.

In comes Toronto, also winless on the season. They did manage a shootout point against Ottawa, but that was LAST. SATURDAY. They haven't played all week. Nothing like equality in scheduling, NHL.

At any rate, obviously, the Maple Leafs are squarely into their rebuild, as they shed several contracts in addition to hiring Mike Babcock and picking high in the 2015 draft. They're not good. If you saw the stats in the Faceoff this morning, it's clear that they have their own struggles, especially scoring goals and killing penalties, which should hopefully play into the Jackets' hands in trying to notch that first win.

This really is a MUST WIN for Columbus, and there aren't too many opponents coming in that Columbus matches up against better than this one. If they can't win tonight... look out. We don't know how deep this hole could really be.

Columbus finally made a roster move, sending Alexander Wennberg to IR retroactive to October 9, and recalling winger Kerby Rychel. One can safely assume that Rychel was not recalled to sit in the press box, and the lineup reflects this. These are my projections based on Thursday's practice lines and just my internal hunches... maybe hopes. Lines will be updated after morning skate.

[UPDATE]

So, of course I have to step away for a couple of hours, and some stuff changes. Lineups updated below.

Injury Notes

Nothing major for the Leafs. For the Jackets, as noted, Alexander Wennberg is now in IR (retroactive to October 9) with a concussion from last Friday night and Kerby Rychel has been recalled in his place.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(0-4-0, 0 Points; 8th division, 16th conference)

Brandon Saad Ryan Johansen Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell William Karlsson Rene Bourque
Matt Calvert Gregory Campbell David Clarkson
Jack Johnson David Savard
Ryan Murray Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin Dalton Prout
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Toronto Maple Leafs
(0-2-1, 1 Point; 8th Division, 13th Conference)

James van Riemsdyk Tyler Bozak Leo Komarov
Shawn Matthias Nazem Kadri Brad Boyes
Mark Arcobello Peter Holland P.A. Parenteau
Daniel Winnik Nick Spaling Joffrey Lupul
Jake Gardiner Dion Phaneuf
Morgan Rielly Matt Hunwick
Scott Harrington Roman Polak
James Reimer
Jonathan Bernier