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Game Preview #56 - Fork In The Road

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The Blue Jackets are--wait for it--NOT IN LAST PLACE IN THE LEAGUE ANYMORE. Not even in the East! What to do?

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jackets vs. Ducks
7:00 PM -
Game Faceoff

OK. So, I know this has not much to do with this specific game, but the Jackets are now in 28th place instead of 30th. There are 27 games left. Edmonton and Toronto are pretty bad, not to mention Winnipeg, Buffalo, and Calgary. The Jackets appear capable of beating--or losing to--anyone in the league right now.

Which direction are they going to go?

If they decide to get hot--again--in the spring when it's largely meaningless, will it have been worth it? They arguably played their way out of Noah Hannifin last season, who, while I like Zach Werenski, is playing in the NHL right now, and doesn't look overwhelmed. I've made no secret of the fact that Hannifin was my dream scenario, outside of the top two.

So, here we are again. There's a megastar in the making at the top of the draft. There's four or five other very good players. Are the Jackets going to do this again, and pick eighth?

Look, I get it. They're (the players and coaches) not going to *try* to lose. But damn if the "moral victory" of going on a run in the spring wouldn't feel extra hollow this season, after seeing that same movie play out before many times.

All of that on the table, during the game on Tuesday I wanted them to win. Afterward I wasn't sad they'd lost in a shootout, but it's a weird fence-sitting position I find myself in: I want the kids to have success, I want them to build confidence.

But I want Auston Matthews.

What to do, what to do. As the trade deadline nears, all of the teams at the bottom with sell off some parts. Are the Jackets minus Fedor Tytutin and Scott Hartnell bad enough to be worse than Toronto? I don't honestly know.

(Sorry for the lateness of this preview. Work. Couldn't be helped.)

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(21-28-6, 48 Points; 8th division, 15th conference)

Boone Jenner Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell Alexander Wennberg Brandon Saad
Matt Calvert William Karlsson Nick Foligno
Rene Bourque Gregory Campbell Kerby Rychel
Ryan Murray Seth Jones
Jack Johnson Cody Goloubef
Fedor Tyutin Dalton Prout
Joonas Korpisalo
Anton Forsberg

Anaheim Ducks
(26-19-7, 59 Points; 3rd Division, 6th Conference)

David Perron Ryan Getzlaf Chris Stewart
Patrick Maroon Richard Rakell Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano Ryan Kesler Jakob Silfverberg
Ryan Garbutt Nate Thompson Mike Santorelli
Cam Fowler Kevin Bieksa
Hampus Lindholm Josh Manson
Simon Despres Sami Vatanen
Frederik Andersen
John Gibson