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Game Preview #49 - Howl At The Moon

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The Blue Jackets have played themselves completely out of the playoff race at this point, and show no real long-term signs of making it back this season. So, what comes next?

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Coyotes at Columbus Blue Jackets

February 3rd, 2015 - 7:00 PM EST
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Five For Howling

This game has an interesting trailer: if you've resigned yourself to talk of the draft order, this game actually has some very real meaning. A win for Arizona would give them a season sweep, and would put the teams just one point apart in the race to the bottom.

Conversely, you could choose to look at it as one of the Jackets' best chances to win a game as they enter what feels like a death march to April essentially completely out of it with 34 games to go. Either way, it's a far cry from last season's game in Columbus against the Yotes, when both teams were fighting for their playoff lives, and the fans were treated to one of the best endings of the season.

Seems so, so long ago.

In many ways, looking at the main stats, these two teams are near mirror images of one another. They both have good Power Plays, and... yep. Look at the bright side: if the Jackets give up six tonight, at least we don't have to hear that annoying coyote howl sound over and over.

As for the lineup, well... Matt Calvert is still sick with whatever it is that's been crushing him of late, and the Jackets are again going to roll a defenseman at forward. This time, however, it makes a little more sense, as Kevin Connauton is going to move up to the fourth line, and Jordan Leopold will join James Wisniewski on the bottom defensive pairing. I actually don't hate this aspect of the lineup. If you've decided you're going to keep all these defensemen, Connauton probably is the best one to skate up front if you had to pick one. Leopold stabilizes the defense just a bit more, as well.

In net, Anton Forsberg gets his first start since back in November when he got lit up by Tampa Bay in the first period to the tune of four goals. That said, though his two starts in the NHL have been less than memorable, Forsberg has gone 18-7-1 with a 2.04 GAA and .927 SV% in Springfield this season. Count me among those who, at this point in a lost season, wouldn't mind giving the kid some run in the NHL to see what kind of moxie he has, knowing full well he's got another year or two in the AHL to develop.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(21-24-3, 45 Points; 7th division, 14th conference)

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

Arizona Coyotes
(18-26-6, 42 Points; 6th Division, 13th Conference)

Tobias Rieder Antoine Vermette Shane Doan
Lauri Korpikoski Sam Gagner Martin Erat
Brandon McMillan Kyle Chipchura David Moss
Lucas Lessio Brendan Shinnimin B.J. Crombeen
Oliver Ekman-Larsson Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle Michael Stone
Andrew Campbell Connor Murphy
Mike Smith
Louis Domingue

Season Series

ARI - 1-0-0
CBJ - 0-1-0

01/03/15 - Columbus 3 at Arizona 6
02/03/15 - Arizona at Columbus

Head to Head Stats

Arizona Columbus
2.26 (27) GPG 2.42 (24)
3.32 (29) GAPG 3.12 (26)
22.1% (7) PP% 22.8% (5)
77.1% (27) PK% 80.7% (19)
Mikkel Boedker / Oliver Ekman-Larsson, 14 G leader Ryan Johansen, 19
Keith Yandle, 30 A leader Nick Foligno, 27
Keith Yandle, 34 Pts leader Nick Foligno / Ryan Johansen, 45
Kyle Chipchura, 57 PIM leader Scott Hartnell, 67
9-14-3 Road/Home 10-12-2
2-6-2 Last 10 3-7-0
2/1 @ Montreal, W 3-2 Last Game 1/31 @ Tampa Bay, L 3-1