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Game Preview #42 - Alright, Let's Play The Game

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We've done nothing but talk for two days about the trade that went down Wednesday. Let's talk about actual games. Wait, maybe that won't be fun, either.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jackets at Hurricanes
7:00 PM -
Game Faceoff

Did anything happen this week?

It's nice to talk about a game again, even if the long shadow of this week's trade is still hanging over the team, for good or ill. I, for one, really like Seth Jones in the vacuum of "we didn't just trade our best player possibly too soon for him," so it will be nice to see him get his first ice time with the Jackets. If nothing else, hopefully he helps soothe the blow of losing Johansen, and in turn makes the rest of the defense better by pushing guys like Jack Johnson and David Savard away from the toughest minutes.

The Jackets are at the midway point, and have been playing "loser .500" since the 0-8-0 start. That's not bad, but it's still an underachievement based on our expectations. That said, without Sergei Bobrovsky and with the injuries and ineffectiveness of the blueliners, it's not the worst thing ever, either.

What will be interesting to watch going forward is the Jackets' second half schedule. I did some research yesterday, and came up with the following nugget:

The Jackets have a terrible record, but if you take the 0-8-0 start out they've been a .500 team for the past 33 games. They've also played one of the most brutal schedules in the league. By the one metric I'd seen broken out in terms of opponents' winning percentage, it's been the toughest in the league. Some of that, obviously, is noise in the data based on the fact that we're the worst team (so, everyone has a better winning percentage on account of playing us), but still. We've played Dallas twice, Washington twice, St. Louis twice. LA twice, Minnesota twice, Florida twice... 20 of our 41 games have been against the 13 best teams in the league in terms of point total. It's been a complete, non-stop, never ending kick in the nuts since game 1.

The interesting rub there? For the remaining portion of the season the Jackets have the 26th toughest (i.e., 5th easiest) strength of schedule, as of today based on opponents' winning percentage. Bob's coming back at some point. Seth Jones might just settle things down on defense a bit. Is this team capable of blowing their draft status? You betcha.

For Canes games, I often like to go to my brother and our e-mail discussions to set these up, because I like his perspective better than the so-called experts (tongue in cheek, guys, calm down). Also, I feel like these teams are mirror images of each other in a lot of ways (under-performing forwards, not so good defense, question marks in goal). Let's check in with Matt P., shall we?

I was actually hoping if NAS needed a center they would take EStaal off our hands. I'm not sure this is such a bad deal for you guys, but I know Johansen was seen as the future.

File this under "FWIW" from a complete outsider's perspective. Nothing more.

After a hot December (including a 7-3-1 stretch) the Canes climbed to one game below "loser's .500" and I felt a tinge of optimism. Then came the 0-2-1 of January and a fresh round of injuries. At this point, we really need to fire sale this thing.

Hmm, that sounds familiar. With guys like Eric Staal needing a new contract, it might be time for big time trade for the Canes. Staal's value will be moderately high, as he's a guy that can fill it up and isn't signed long term. And, if what Matt has told me is true, he's got an on/off switch that might be unrivaled in the entire league. He might also signal a culture change in their dressing room, a la us trading Rick Nash. Time will tell.

Two rookie goalies? Guaranteed they each get a "first career shutout" against the Canes. It's unbelievable how many times this has happened in the last 5 years.

I mean, that's eerie, guys. This is the Jackets' MO, as well.

Let's see how the Jackets stack up against a team down in the bottom of the standings with them, for a change. Can't get much worse, can it?

Wait, don't answer that.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(15-23-3, 33 Points; 8th division, 16th conference)

Boone Jenner Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell Alexander Wennberg Brandon Saad
Nick Foligno William Karlsson Josh Anderson
Rene Bourque Gregory Campbell Jared Boll
Ryan Murray Seth Jones
Jack Johnson David Savard
Fedor Tyutin Cody Goloubef
Anton Forsberg
Joonas Korpisalo

Carolina Hurricanes
(16-18-7, 39 Points; 7th Division, 14th Conference)

Eric Staal Jordan Staal Kris Versteeg
Joakim Nordstrom Victor Rask Elias Lindholm
Jeff Skinner Riley Nash Chris Terry
Brad Malone Jay McClement Andrej Nestrasil
Jaccob Slavin Justin Faulk
John-Michael Liles Ron Hainsey
Noah Hanifin Brett Pesce
Cam Ward
Eddie Lack