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Game Preview #76 - Out, But Not Down

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The Jackets could officially be eliminated from the playoffs tonight. But that hasn't stopped them from stringing together a great run to wrap up the season.

Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

New Jersey Devils at Columbus Blue Jackets

March 31, 2015 - 7:00 pm EDT
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 FM - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: In Lou We Trust

It's some interesting symmetry: 12 games ago, the Jackets were 26-33-4, losers of seven in a row (0-6-1), and heading into New Jersey. It looked like the stamp was on the envelope for the rest of the season, and the Jackets were heading to the post office.

Fast forward 12 games.

Columbus has won 10 of those games. Eight of them on the road, in a row. They're now above .500 for the first time since January 6th, when they beat Dallas to go one game over .500 at 18-17-3.

While it's clearly too little, too late--Boston can knock the Jackets officially out of the playoffs with two points tonight--there are some reasons for optimism. First and foremost, the Jackets are now much closer to healthy, in terms of the guys we expected to be contributors to this year's team. Only Ryan Murray is still hurt, now that Calvert is back tonight. Looking at the lineup being iced tonight, this is the team we expected to see.

I know it's a topic for debate: should they be trying to win these games at the expense of the draft pick? I answer: yes. This team is still so very young. They're seeing that when they're healthy, they can beat anybody in the league. The core of whatever success they are going to have next year is in the room now, not on the Central Scouting list. Picking 4th isn't going to make this a playoff team whereas picking 8th will not. I've been up in the air about "tanking" for the past couple of months, but I now know firmly which side of the fence I fall.

End rant.

As for tonight's game, the big news is that Matt Calvert is off of IR and is expected to play tonight. But, alas, it's not that simple. Buried in the announcement was this nugget:

Umm, yeah. As many have said, we're not doctors, but... that sounds... odd. I know there's a ton of moving parts here. Calvert is a pending RFA, and (this is pure speculation on my part) probably wants to give the organization something to remember when it comes to contract negotiations. BUT, with all that we've learned over the last decade about head injuries, why is he even coming back? For seven games? In a non-playoff scenario? I don't get it.

But, again, I'm not a doctor, and more specifically I'm not Matt Calvert's doctor. So, I can't really comment with any degree of certainty about whether this is not an issue or patently stupid. The truth, as it often does, probably lies somewhere in between.

This game? The Devils have fallen back to earth. As was the expectation, they just simply didn't score enough goals this year. Ryan Johansen has one more assist than Devils' points leader Adam Henrique has points. Yep.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets 
(36-35-4, 76 Points; 6th division, 12th conference)

Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Cam Atkinson
Artem Anisimov Brandon Dubinsky Nick Foligno
Scott Hartnell Alexander Wennberg Marko Dano
Matt Calvert Mark Letestu Jeremy Morin
Jack Johnson David Savard
Kevin Connauton Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin Dalton Prout
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

New Jersey Devils
(31-33-12, 74 Points; 7th Division, 13th Conference)

Adam Henrique Scott Gomez Steve Bernier
Mike Cammalleri Travis Zajac Stefan Matteau
Dainius Zubrus Patrik Elias Stephen Gionta
Tuomo Ruutu Jacob Josefson Jordin Tootoo
Andy Greene Adam Larsson
Jon Merrill Damon Severson
Eric Gelinas Peter Harrold
Cory Schneider
Keith Kinkaid

Season Series

NJD - 2-1-0
CBJ - 1-2-0

11/01/14 - Columbus 2 at New Jersey 3
02/28/15 - New Jersey 2 at Columbus 0
03/06/15 - Columbus 3 at New Jersey 2
03/31/15 - New Jersey at Columbus

Head to Head Stats

New Jersey Columbus
2.16 (28) GPG 2.67 (18)
2.46 (10) GAPG 3.07 (25)
19.1% (10) PP% 22.1% (5)
81.2% (16) PK% 79.5% (24)
Mike Cammalleri, 25 G leader Nick Foligno, 26
Scott Gomez / Adam Henrique, 24 A leader Ryan Johansen, 41
Adam Henrique, 40 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 66
Jordin Tootoo, 72 PIM leader Jared Boll, 109
13-20-4 Road/Home 14-20-2
3-5-2 Last 10 9-1-0
3/29 vs. Anaheim, L 2-1 Last Game 3/28 @ St. Louis, W 4-2