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Game Preview #54 - No Rest

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The Jackets came back big-time in the third period last night and stole two points from Philly. Can they crank it up again just 24 hours later on The Island?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Islanders

February 14th, 2015 - 7:00 PM EST
Nassau Veterans' Memorial Coliseum - Uniondale, New York
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Lighthouse Hockey

Every single time I write this team off--every time there's a loss where I go, "OK, that's the one that's going to start the death spiral," they find a way to keep me guessing. We can debate the overall "strategy" for lack of a better word, but it's clear that this team isn't going to go all Buffalo on it and try to tear a rift in the hockey space-time continuum with its play. It would have been very easy to pack it in during the third period once a silly penalty led to a 3-1 deficit, but they didn't quit. They didn't go away. And then they stole points for themselves--and a badly needed second point--from Philadelphia.

I don't even know what to think about this team any more. I'll sum it up this way: they have 29 games left. Two years ago, when they had 29 games left, they went on a 19-5-5 run to *almost* get into the playoffs. A 19-5-5 run for this team would get them to 94 points, which one would hope would be good enough. Obviously, there hasn't been much of late that would tell you this team is about to go on a 19-5-5 run, but ask yourself: two years ago, what about the 5-12-2 start said, "This team is about to go 19-5-5?" Nothing. They've won three of four, and through the ups and downs are still 18-11-1 since the beginning of December, which projected over an entire season is a 101 point team. They haven't always looked good doing it, but they've also never been close to healthy all season, either.

Look, I'm not saying it's going to happen. I don't really think it could. But, the guys in Union Blue seem to feel like they're not done playing meaningful hockey yet, and as a fan that's all I can really ask for.

The schedule is going to be tough, but if they really want to make a move they have a chance with a long string of games before the deadline against Eastern Conference--and Metro Division, more specifically--opponents. Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'. That's God damn right.

The Islanders are good. I concede that when we made our picks (which, it should also be noted was before they picked up Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy), I was not on the Islanders' band wagon At. ALL. I had them 7th. I can admit that I didn't appreciate how much goal tending would help them, as well as those defensive acquisitions. They're fast. They're not fading. Kudos to them for proving many of us wrong.

The weird thing is, though: their defense hasn't been great. They're still in the bottom half of the league in goals-against, but they're improved from last year. And they're healthy up front, and the lift in scoring has been the biggest boost. They can outscore teams now, whereas last year they didn't have an answer for the gaping hole on the back end.

/pauses for you all to make jokes

But, the Islanders are an example of how a team with expectations getting healthy as well as making just a few savvy moves in the off-season can go from worst to first in a division. The Jackets (and we fans) should take note.

All of that is a fancy way of saying: the Jackets have a tough, tough task on the second night of a back-to-back if they want to keep the train moving. The Isles are missing Kyle Okposo which helps, and they haven't been quite the juggernaut of late. But, they just keep finding ways to win.

Lineups below are my assumptions based on last night and on the fact that CMac has gotten into a groove.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(24-26-3, 49 Points; 6th division, 12th conference)

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

New York Islanders
(36-18-1, 73 Points; 1st Division, 3rd Conference)

Anders Lee John Tavares Josh Bailey
Mikhail Grabovski Frans Nielsen Ryan Strome
Nikolay Kulemin Brock Nelson Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin Casey Cizikas Colin McDonald
Nick Leddy Johnny Boychuk
Brian Strait Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey Lubomir Visnovsky
Jaroslav Halak
Chad Johnson

Season Series

NYI - 1-0-0
CBJ - 0-1-0

01/10/15 - NY Islanders 5 at Columbus 2
02/14/15 - Columbus at NY Islanders
04/02/15 - NY Islanders at Columbus
04/11/15 - Columbus at NY Islanders

Head to Head Stats

NY Islanders Columbus
3.02 (5) GPG 2.55 (23)
2.76 (22) GAPG 3.08 (26)
19.5% (10) PP% 22.6% (6)
72.8% (30) PK% 80.0% (20)
John Tavares, 24 G leader Nick Foligno, 21
Kyle Okposo, 30 A leader Nick Foligno / Ryan Johansen, 30
John Tavares, 51 Pts leader Nick Foligno, 51
Matt Martin, 82 PIM leader Jared Boll, 70
19-6-0 Home/Road 12-12-1
6-4-0 Last 10 5-5-0
2/12 vs. Toronto, W 3-2 Last Game 2/13 vs. Philadelphia, W 4-3 (OT)