Game 76 Preview: Cattitude Problems?

There really isn't much to say about a game versus the Panthers - not because they're a bad team (in fact, having watched a few of their recent games, I think they're better than their record indicates), but because they are a team the Jackets rarely face, and haven't really had anything to build a rivalry or lasting impression on.

Let's face it - the "sexiest" name on the Panthers is Tomas Vokoun, and nobody seems to know if he's even coming back to the organization. About the only thing that most pundits expect is that Jared Boll and Darcy Hordichuk are likely to fight, given their history. (The only players Boll has thrown down with more frequently are George Parros, Krys Barch, and Cam Janssen.)

It's not exactly a game brimming with anticipation...but on the other hand, that might be a pretty good reason to catch this one.

Game Time: 7:00 pm EST
TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: WBNS FM (97.1)
Panthers vs Blue Jackets coverage

Opponent's Blog: Litter Box Cats

Speaking of Vokoun, he's questionable for tonight with a back issue, while Steve Mason looks to start tonight and keep his perfect record going vs the Panthers - he's 3-0 lifetime against the boys from South Florida, with a .98 GAA, .965 save percentage, and one shutout.

The Panthers, on the other hand, are likely to rely on Scott Clemmensen, who has been shouldering the load of late, but only has 8 wins to show in 20 starts. He also seems to occasionally have unusual problems in the shootout, but give him points for innovative technique. Also, interestingly, he's never played against the Blue Jackets before. I thought we might have seen him at least once when he was a backup in Jersey, but no. Welcome to Columbus! I hope you stink tonight.

With both the Jackets and the Panthers firmly in the "not much to lose" category, this game comes down to grudges, and given how the Jackets ripped victory from the jaws of defeat when these two teams met back in January, I'm betting there will be plenty.

Keys To The Game:

  • Walking Wounded - The Panthers will be missing no less than seven of their players tonight if Vokoun doesn't go, while the Jackets still feel the absence of Grant Clitsome, though it is possible that Anton Stralman will return to the lineup tonight.
  • Mirror Images - The difference between the Panthers and the Jackets in their last 10 games is a shootout loss for Columbus. Otherwise, the picture is eerily similar - a lack of power play production, scoring trouble (both teams went dry for almost three games), weak defense...the Jackets need to find a way to break the mirror and get some pucks in the back of the net tonight.
  • Blue Line Boost - Believe it or not, the Jackets have a clear offensive edge from their defense in this game. Only one of the blueliners expected to play tonight for Florida (Dmitry Kulikov) has over 20 points this season, compared to three for the Jackets.
  • Refreshing Beach Air? - Steve Mason isn't the only Jacket who apparently likes getting to take his talents to South Beach - Antoine Vermette has 7 goals in 20 games vs. the Panthers, R.J. Umberger has 6 points in 14 games, and Fedor Tyutin has 5 points (including 3 goals) in 15 games. Any or all of them having a big game tonight would go a long way for the Jackets putting in a win at home.

After this game, we'll truly be in the final stretch of the season, with only 5 games left (and a pair of them on the road). It's not what we wanted - I truly believed this team would find their way back to the playoffs this season - but it is what we have, so we might as well go in and enjoy it before they close the doors and turn off the lights.

Blue Jackets Information:

Team Page Schedule
Roster Stats

Columbus Blue Jackets

Rick Nash Derick Brassard Matt Calvert
R.J. Umberger Antoine Vermette Jakub Voracek
Derek Dorsett Samuel Pahlsson Scottie Upshall
Maksim Mayorov Derek MacKenzie Jared Boll
Jan Hejda Sami Lepisto
Fedor Tyutin Marc Methot
Anton Stralman Kris Russell
Steve Mason

Mathieu Garon

Florida Panthers

Sergei Samsonov Stephen Weiss Niclas Bergfors
David Booth Mike Santorelli Michal Repik
Evgeny Dadonov Marty Reasoner Steve Bernier
Darcy Hordichuk Ryan Carter Patrick Rissmiller
Jason Garrison Mike Weaver
Keaton Ellerby Alexander Sulzer
Dmitry Kulikov Joe Callahan

Scott Clemmensen
Tomas Vokoun

Tidbit: Manny Malhotra will have surgery today in hopes of preserving his eyesight. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.

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