Game Preview #25: No Surrender

With a super-charged victory over Pittsburgh behind them, the Blue Jackets must dig deep against a rested and skilled St. Louis Blues team.

Blue Jackets at St. Louis Blues - 8:00 PM EST
Game Face-off

Hockey is a funny game. In the space of 48 hours, the Blue Jackets played two 2 -1 games, winning both, yet they could not have been more different efforts. The Blue Jackets played a chippy, determined and structured game at home against Pittsburgh, refused to wilt when pushed to the wall, and ended up skating circles around the Penguins in the OT.

Tonight's contest in St. Louis calls for precisely the same effort, with hopefully some better puck luck around the net. Marc-Andre Fleury was standing on his head all night, and the Blue Jackets will need to direct an equal amount of rubber in the direction of Jake Allen, the presumed starter for St. Louis.

This one, of course, comes with all of the built in excuses -- back half of a back-to-back, third game in four days, on the road, against a rested St. Louis squad which last played on Wednesday, ironically an overtime loss to the Penguins. Complicating the equation is Brandon Dubinsky's 11:30 a.m. hearing with the Player Safety folks, arising from his cross-check to the neck of Sidney Crosby, who then played the infraction to the hilt, only to return to the ice and watch Cam Atkinson score the game winner from a great seat right in front of the post. If Dubinsky is taken out of action, Figure on Campbell moving to center, Wennberg moving up, and Markus Hannikainen drawing in. I'll try to update as we learn more, but from where I sit that was not a suspension-worthy hit, as those types of hits occur routinely in the slot, but are exaggerated when Sid the Untouchable is involved. The screeching from the Penguins' camp is a tad ingenuous, given the shots repeatedly dished out by Cole, Hornqvist and others last night. Just sayin' . . . [UPDATE: Dubinsky suspended for one game, so will not be available tonight.]

There can be no excuses tonight, and the adrenaline from last night should help against an opponent still stinging from the 3 -1 loss Columbus handed them less than a fortnight ago. This will test the coaching prowess of both Ken Hitchcock and John Tortorella, as Hitch will be looking to gain favorable match-ups for the Tarasenko line, while Tortorella will simply be trotting out fresh legs on short shifts to challenge the St. Louis attack, and create counter-opportunities for the offense.

I'm figuring that Curtis McElhinney gets the nod tonight, but it would not be a big shock to see Tortorella go with the hot hand in Bobrovsky. (UPDATE: Tortorella says Bobrovsky will start). There will be the usual line fiddling, but I think Tortorella basically stands pat to start the contest.

The Blue Jackets will need to be particularly careful to keep their legs moving and avoid penalties against the Blues. Fatigue can promote reaching and grabbing, and anyone succumbing to that temptation will likely find a quick seat on the bench. The recipe is simple -- skate hard -- in both directions, maintain the structure, and put the puck on net. Good things happen when you do those three things. There can be no surrender to the pain.

Somebody mentioned a football game? You mean Stanford vs. Notre Dame? No? Who knew?

Hockey rules.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(10-14-0, 20 Points; 8th division, 15th conference)

Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Brandon Saad
Matt Calvert Alexander Wennberg Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell William Karlsson Nick Foligno
Kerby Rychel Gregory Campbell Markus Hannikainen
Jack Johnson David Savard
Ryan Murray Kevin Connauton
Andrew Bodnarchuk Justin Falk
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

St. Louis Blues
(14-6-3, 26 Points; 2nd Division, 2nd Conference)

Alexander Steen Paul Stastny Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi Jori Lehtera Dmitrij Jaskin
Robby Fabbri David Backes Troy Brouwer
Steve Ott Kyle Brodziak Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson Kevin Shattenkirk
Colton Parayko Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen
Brian Elliott

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