Game Preview #34 - Cleared For Take-Off

The Blue Jackets are starting to show signs of the way they played at the end of last season. Can they keep it going tonight against the Jets?

Winnipeg Jets at Columbus Blue Jackets

December 16, 2013 - 7:00 pm EST
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Arctic Ice Hockey
SBN's Jets vs Blue Jackets coverage

The Blue Jackets narrowly missed a huge win on Saturday night, but there were some positive take-aways from that game: they were able to jump on one of the best teams in the NHL early on, and that team--that had been playing exceptionally well--had to do everything it could to get to overtime. The Jackets had plenty of chances, and just couldn't bury them (stop me if you've heard that before...), but the important thing is that they showed us that, even down several players due to injury, they're getting up for these games again.

It almost reminded me of the spring. Almost.

The Jackets are now riding a string of points in 13 of 18 games (9-5-4), good for 22 points over that stretch. Considering the injuries and inconsistency sustained during that stretch, I'd call that a step in the right direction, for sure.

Tonight's opponent is the Jets, who aren't exactly setting the world on fire of late. Before you look at their record and say, "HEY DAN THEY HAVE THE SAME RECORD AS US IDIOT!!1!" (just kidding, I know none of you would do that), consider that this Jets team was at one time 10-9-2, and at that point riding a four-game winning streak. Since then? 4-6-2, and losers of five of seven (2-4-1). They're last in their division (yes, the West is much, much better than the East, and the Central is light-years better than the Metro).

If we look at the stats, these teams are mirror images of each other offensively and defensively. But, stats are just that: stats. These stats cover the long-haul. The Jets have lost three straight, and the one stat area they hang their hat on has been their PK. They were in the top 10 in the league, but in their last three losses they've allowed three PPGs in 10 chances. They've also allowed 11 goals overall.

So, this game, in my opinion, is winnable for Columbus if they play like they've been playing. This team can be scored on. They've had to travel, and their PK--arguably their strength--has been vulnerable of late.

For Columbus, there were some roster issues to report. Nick Foligno was questionable, but it appears he's going to play tonight. R.J. Umberger didn't participate in the morning skate this morning (personal issue), but he should be playing tonight as well. Jack Skille was recalled, just in case.

Some good news, for once: both Marian Gaborik and James Wisniewski are now classified as "day to day," and Todd Richards described a Nathan Horton return as a matter of days and not weeks. Still not before Christmas for Horton, but it's close (remember, Christmas is less than 10 days away now).

As for tonight, just keep doing what you're doing, fellas, and good things should happen.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(14-15-4, 32 Points; 5th division, 10th conference)

Nick Foligno Ryan Johansen R.J. Umberger
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Boone Jenner Artem Anisimov Blake Comeau
Derek MacKenzie Mark Letestu Corey Tropp
Fedor Tyutin Jack Johnson
Ryan Murray David Savard
Nikita Nikitin Dalton Prout
Mike McKenna
Jeremy Smith

Winnipeg Jets
(14-15-5, 33 Points; 7th division, 12th conference)

Andrew Ladd Bryan Little Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane Olli Jokinen Devin Setoguchi
Eric Tangradi Mark Scheifele Michael Frolik
James Wright John Albert Chris Thorburn
Dustin Byfuglien Tobias Enstrom
Mark Stuart Jacob Trouba
Adam Pardy Grant Clitsome
Ondrej Pavelec
Al Montoya

Season Series

12/16/13 - Winnipeg at Columbus
01/11/14 - Columbus at Winnipeg

Head to Head Stats

Winnipeg Columbus
2.50 (20) GPG 2.54 (17)
2.82 (20) GAPG 2.76 (19)
12.9% (27) PP% 19.4% (10)
82.6% (15) PK% 81.3% (19)
Bryan Little, 13 G leader Ryan Johansen, 12
Bryan Little / Dustin Byfuglien, 17 A leader James Wisniewski, 16
Bryan Little, 30 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 26
Dustin Byfuglien, 40 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky, 66
7-7-1 Road/Home 8-7-2
12/14 vs. Dallas, L 6-4 Last Game 12/14 vs. St. Louis, L 4-3 (OT)
4-4-2 Last 10 6-3-1

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