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Game Preview #82 - So Long, Farewell

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It's been a wild ride, which--for good or ill--ends tonight on Long Island.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Islanders

April 11, 2015 - 7:00 pm EDT
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum - Uniondale, New York
Radio - WBNS 97.1 FM - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Lighthouse Hockey

I'll be honest: at times in November, and especially in February, I dreaded writing a lot of these previews. The lineups. The record. The grossness of it all. It was just... ugh. So, there was a point in late February when I was seriously looking forward to clicking "Publish" on this particular preview, knowing then that I'd have a nice six months to decompress from putting them together.

And then the team decided to make these games exciting again. The Jackets have gone 15-2-1 in their last 18 games, knocking off playoff teams along the way. They're finally healthy. And, as Nick Foligno said last night at the end of the final home game, they showed us that they're headed in the right direction if they can just... stay.... healthy.

This preview is bittersweet. I'm still glad to be done in many ways, but I'm going to miss this team. They showed us how tight a group they are. They showed us that, yes, once they're healthy, they are damn, damn fine team. They showed us that, yep, injuries are the legitimate excuse this year, and that the core--and the future--is strong.

But, most of all, they made watching hockey fun again. They made me a believer. They made me stopping giving a crap about a draft pick, because this group right here doesn't need a top-five pick to be a playoff contender next season if they can play like this.

While it stings to not be in the playoffs this season, there are some silver linings: this club, with four more goals, the club will actually set a new franchise record for goals in a season. Three goals ties last season for that record. That, to me, is stunning. They have a chance to finish in the top half of the league on offense, top five in Power Play, and to get to/stay above the 3.00 gapg and 80% PK thresholds. Considering The Dark Times in November and February, that, too, is a bit of a shocker.

This team, in its own way, was amazing to watch. They persevered, they allowed some young guys to get some valuable experience, and they all took a pretty big step forward once the injuries were finally washed away. It hurts we don't get to see them in the playoffs this season (because, honestly, who couldn't they play with right now in the East??), but I've never been more confident that we'll see a return to the playoffs than I have become this month. October can't get here soon enough for me.

For the Islanders, they don't need points desperately tonight, as they're locked into a divisional matchup with the Caps. Home ice in that series, however, is up for grabs. So, they do have something to play for. And the Jackets have the chance to play playoff spoilers in some small measure one last time.

Also, tonight marks the final regular season game at the Nassau Veterans' Memorial Coliseum, as the club moves to Brooklyn next season. The Jackets had better be prepared for a fired up emotional Isles team.

No morning skate, and man does it make me happy to assume we'll get to see the same lineup again tonight for one last time.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets 
(41-35-5, 85 Points; 5th division, 11th conference)

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

New York Islanders
(47-23-6, 100 Points; 3rd Division, 5th Conference)

Nikolay Kulemin John Tavares Ryan Strome
Anders Lee Josh Bailey Kyle Okposo
Michael Grabner Brock Nelson Cal Clutterbuck
Eric Boulton Casey Cizikas Tyler Kennedy
Nick Leddy Johnny Boychuk
Brian Strait Travis Hamonic
Thomas Hickey Lubomir Visnovsky
Jaroslav Halak
Michal Neuvirth

Season Series

NYI - 2-0-1
CBJ - 1-2-0

01/10/15 - NY Islanders 5 at Columbus 2
02/14/15 - Columbus 3 at NY Islanders 5
04/02/15 - NY Islanders 3 at Columbus 4 (SO)
04/11/15 - Columbus at NY Islanders

Head to Head Stats

NY Islanders Columbus
2.98 (4) GPG 2.75 (15)
2.72 (21) GAPG 3.01 (25)
18.9% (13) PP% 21.6% (5)
78.1% (26) PK% 80.0% (23)
John Tavares, 37 G leader Nick Foligno, 31
John Tavares, 47 A leader Ryan Johansen, 45
John Tavares, 84 Pts leader Nick Foligno, 73
Matt Martin, 114 PIM leader Jared Boll, 109
25-14-1 Home/Road 22-15-3
4-4-2 Last 10 9-0-1
4/10 @ Pittsburgh, W 3-1 Last Game 4/10 vs. Buffalo, W 4-2