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Game 61 Preview: Battle for Pride

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With the Devils and Blue Jackets facing an April exit from NHL hockey, both squads are looking to end the season with a flurry, and lay the groundwork for next year.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

New Jersey Devils at Columbus Blue Jackets

February 28, 2015 - 5:00 pm EST (Yes, 5 PM, not 7 PM)
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - 97.1 FM The Fan  - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: In Lou We Trust

The Jagr-less New Jersey Devils come into Columbus for a late afternoon contest on Saturday, fresh off of a homestand-ending 3 - 2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins on Friday night.  Jaromir is learning about the virtues of sun block in his new Florida home, while gearing up for a hoped-for playoff run, as the Panthers try to chase down the aforementioned Bruins as the calendar turns to March and the stretch run of the NHL season.

The Blue Jackets and Devils are playing for pride at this point -- though the Devils' media was holding out hope entering last night's contest.  As we all know, however, hope is not a strategy.  Neither of these clubs are going to the playoffs this year, and the squads will have to overcome the butterflies in the stomach that come not from an impending playoff berth, but from the looming trade deadline on Monday.  Saturday's contest might be a final audition for some veterans, and an entry audition for some youngsters.

This one is expected to feature the Columbus debut for David Clarkson -- acquired in the much-debated trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs -- who will face the club with whom he enjoyed his best NHL season.  Meanwhile, the Parade of the Folignos continues with father Mike coming to visit in his role as coach for the Devils, following the appearance of brother Marcus with the Buffalo Sabres.

Following the OT loss and a late night plane trip for the Devils, the Blue Jackets would be well advised to shake off recent performances and come out with some aggressiveness  early.  It will help matters greatly if the goaltending can avoid the early softies that both Anton Forsberg and Curtis McElhinney surrendered in the early going in the last two starts. With Matt Calvert sidelined due to concussion, Brandon Dubinsky possibly still shaken up from the Montreal contest, and Oscar Dansk now in the backup role to the chief backup, the lineup could get interesting in a hurry if anyone else goes down.

Players to watch include Alexander Wennberg and Marko Dano, who have both upped their games, together with Cody Goloubef and Artem Anisimov.  A familiar nemesis will be in uniform for the Devils in the person of Jordin Tootoo.  The Columbus faithful loved nothing more than jeering Tootoo in his days with Nashville, and he should expect nothing else on Saturday.

The game will present some interesting statistical match-ups, with New Jersey scoring only 2.18 goals per game, but Columbus surrendering 3.12.  Both figures are good for 28th in the NHL.  In contrast, both clubs are strong on the power play, with Columbus having a slight edge at 20.5% (7th) vs. 19.5% (9th) for the Devils.  The Blue Jackets have a more decisive edge on the PK, ranking 17th in the league, compared to New Jersey's 23rd place slot.

The Blue Jackets have announced that Clarkson joins the top line with Foligno and Johansen.  Go big or go home, I guess.  Sergei Bobrovsky has been activated, and will back up Curtis McElhinney tonight, with Oscar Dansk heading back to Springfield.  Nice.  Brandon Dubinsky, however, is out.  Not Nice.  Wennberg centers Atkinson and Hartnell, with Brian Gibbons returning on the wing with Dano and Anisimov.  Fedor Tyutin pairs with James Wisniewski, while Dalton Prout draws in with Cody Goloubef. The roster wheel continues to spin.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets 
(26-40-4, 56 Points; 7th division, 13th conference)

Nick Foligno Ryan Johansen David Clarkson
Scott Hartnell Alexander Wennberg Cam Atkinson
Brian Gibbons Artem Anisimov Marko Dano
Corey Tropp Mark Letestu Jared Boll
Jack Johnson David Savard
Fedor Tyutin James Wisniewski
Dalton Prout Cody Goloubef
Curtis McElhinney
Sergei Bobrovsky

New Jersey Devils
(25-27-10, 60 Points; 6th Division, 12th Conference)

Adam Henrique Patrik Elias Steve Bernier
Mike Cammalleri Travis Zajac Jordin Tootoo
Tuomo Ruutu Jacob Josefson Brian Gionta
Dainius Zubrus Scott Gomez Martin Havlat
Andy Greene Adam Larsson
Jon Merrill Marek Zidlicky
Eric Gelinas Mark Fraser
Cory Schneider
Scott Clemmensen

Season Series

New Jersey - 1-0-0
CBJ - 0-1-0

11/1/14 - Columbus 2 at New Jersey 3
02/28/15 - New Jersey at Columbus
03/6/15 - Columbus at New Jersey
03/31/15 - New Jersey at Columbus

Head to Head Stats

New Jersey Columbus
2.18 (28) GPG 2.55 (23)
2.55 (11) GAPG 3.12 (28)
19.5% (9) PP% 20.5% (7)
79.7% (23) PK% 81.0% (17)
Mike Cammalleri, 23 G leader Nick Foligno, 23
Adam Henrique, 20 A leader Nick Foligno / Ryan Johansen, 32
Cameleers/Henrique, 32 Pts leader Nick Foligno, 55
Jordin Tootoo, 61 PIM leader Scott Hartnell, 84
10-18-2 Road/Home 12-16-2
4-5-1 Last 10 4-5-1
2/27 vs Boston L 3 - 2 OT Last Game 2/26 vs. Montreal, L 5 - 2