Game 8 (X) Preview: Blue Jackets Raisin' Canes EDIT: With Lineup Changes

Game Time: 7:00 pm EDT
TV: None, streaming online via CBJ website
Radio: 1460 AM
Opponent's Blog: Canes Country

As an NFL fan, I still find myself looking at the last exhibition game as a "seriously: DON'T GET HURT!!" kind of game. Factor in that this is a road game, a second-of-a-back-to-back game, and that this club has some nicks and bumps on it, and I'm even more wary.

The Carolina Hurricanes came one game short of making the playoffs last season, and in talking to a Canes fan very close to me (as in, born of the same womb a few years in front of me), the consensus over the summer was "If you want to look at one game, look at that Columbus game!" from back in March, in which the Jackets eeked out a 3-2 win while holding Carolina 0-for-9 (!) on the Power Play. You remember that game... an empty netter made it 3-1, and then the Canes turned around and scored to make it 3-2, and the sweat started beading up on our collective brow again...?

I digress. This is the last exhibition game for the Jackets, while the Hurricanes play one more tomorrow. Both clubs are bringing their full contingents. No word on scratches as of yet. Here are the full lineups. After the jump, we'll take a stab at lines (using last night's lineup), and will update any changes either here, or in the Game Thread later this evening. Coach Scott Arniel did confirm that Steve Mason will get the start in goal.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Rick Nash Jeff Carter Cam Atkinson
R.J. Umberger Antoine Vermette Alexandre Giroux
Derick Brassard Martin St. Pierre Tomas Kubalik
Maksim Mayorov Ryan Johansen Jared Boll
Marc Methot David Savard
John Moore Aaron Johnson
Grant Clitsome Kris Russell
Steve Mason
Curtis Sanford

Carolina Hurricanes

Alexei Ponikarovsky Eric Staal Zac Dalpe
Jeff Skinner Tuomo Ruutu Jussi Jokinen
Chad LaRose Brandon Sutter Jiri Tlusty
Anthony Stewart Tim Brent Patrick Dwyer
Joni Pitkanen Tim Gleason
Tomas Kaberle Jay Harrison
Justin Faulk Bryan Allen
Cam Ward
Brian Boucher

As I noted above, I reached out to my brother for some Canes highlights from the pre-season, and he provided me with some roster nuggets. Going into camp, there were basically 2 open forward spots (sound familiar?), and the front-runners are Zac Dalpe and Jiri Tlusty.  Dalpe has looked fantastic in camp, and is getting time on the line centered by perennial All Star Eric Staal; there's even some talk of a second straight Calder in Raleigh.

A pleasant camp surprise has been Alexei Ponikarovski, who is looking the best he has in some time. People are also saying that Jeff Skinner looks like his skating has gotten more explosive, and he has been dominant in stretches during a couple of preseason games. The other most pleasant surprise has been the goaltending of Brian Boucher. It appears that for the first time since the Cup year the Canes will be able to give their starter Cam Ward some rest and not expect an automatic loss when they do.

On defense, it looks like Carolina will be icing a roster of borderline top-pairing guys. Justin Faulk and 2011 top pick Ryan Murphy have made some noise during pre-season, but it would appear that there are too many guys on one-way contracts for either of them to stick. Faulk is quite sound in his own end, whereas Murphy may still be a defensive liability, but is just sicknasty with the puck. Early reviews on off-season prize Tomas Kaberle are mixed; people have liked what they've seen on some PPs, but the scoring hasn't been there. Opinion seems mixed between "soft" and "OK on the second pair".

For the Jackets, it looks like some guys will get their swan songs, namely Martin St. Pierre and Alexandre Giroux. Vinny Prospal and Samuel Pahlsson appear to be getting the night off, and Jared Boll appears to be sliding in for Derek Dorsett at the bottom of the forward roster. Interesting to see Atkinson getting some run with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter, and I'll be curious to see if he tailors his game to theirs. All three of those players possess scoring touch, so they may be able to do some damage.

R.J. Umberger moves up to the second line with Antoine Vermette and presumably Giroux. There's some firepower there with Giroux, but also some soundness playing both ways with Umby and Vermette. The third line sees Derick Brassard and Tomas Kubalik manning the wings on either side of St. Pierre, which will be an interesting combination. Kubalik looked to have shaken off his concussion en route to two assists last night while playing with Nash and Carter, so now his test will be to affect scoring with a bit lesser talent around him. Finally, a hybrid line of Maksim Mayorov, Ryan Johansen, and Jared Boll provides some grit with some scoring. Johansen has looked like he fits at this level so far, and it will be interesting to see what kind of situations that line faces. It certainly has speed with Joey and Maksim out there, and Boller has been known to flash a bit of skill when not purely asked to thug it up.

On defense, the Jackets are still shuffling some bodies around without James Wisniewski. Fedor Tyutin and Radek Martinek also did not make the trip. That leaves seven guys: the six we've projected above, and Nick Holden. No official word on the lineup yet.

Arniel noted that Steve Mason is starting again tonight. Whether he plays the whole game or not remains to be seen. I will be looking to see how he does on the second night of a back-to-back with some travel sprinkled in. This is a major test for Masse, and I'm hoping he passes it.

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