Game Preview #8: Hitch Up Your Big Boy Pants

The Blue Jackets have some new call-ups and face an old friend-turned-foe as St. Louis comes calling.

St. Louis Blues at Columbus Blue Jackets

January 31, 2013 - 7:00pm EST
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponents Blog: St. Louis Game Time
SBNation Game Page

Well, this should be interesting. These two franchises have had a, shall we say, interesting relationship over the past few years: lots of punishing, physical games; a defenseman swap that seems to have benefitted both clubs; a fired coach going from Columbus to St. Louis and turning them into a juggernaut; and a front-office star coming back the other way.

On top of that, the Blues have turned themselves into one of the best teams in the league over the last 15 months, and the Jackets have cratered. The Blues are playing as well as anyone right now, and the Jackets are battling injuries and trying to make up for deficiencies in talent by sheer will and hard work.

Like I said, this should be interesting.

The Jackets would have their work cut out for them tonight even with their full lineup. Nevermind the fact that it looks like four regulars will be out: Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson up front, and Nikita Nikitin and Adrian Aucoin on defense. Columbus will have three guys making their season debuts, and two of those guys are getting their first chance in a Union Blue sweater. One of THOSE guys is making his NHL debut.

Yes, tonight should begin the Tim Erixon and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault eras in Columbus, with JAM making his NHL debut. Also drawing in will be David Savard. This obviously shakes up the D pairings a bit, though Controlled Chaos looks to be intact after switching up during the morning skate this morning.

The Blues are humming, as you can see from the stat lines below. They've had three days off (WTF??) whereas the Jackets have played two games during that Blue Note down-time. That's gonna help, right? It does look like the Jackets catch a mini-break, as they get Brian Elliott between the pipes instead of regular starter Jaroslav Halak, whom the Blues are saving for tomorrow night's game against Detroit. FWIW, he's got a 2.74 gaa and a .875 save percentage; both are substantially worse than Halak's numbers.

So there's that.

The Jackets need to come out mad. They need to channel their inner John Davidson, and bring the fight to St. Louis. I'm speculating entirely here, but it wouldn't surprise me if JD didn't try to inject a little extra juice into tonight's game.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(2-4-1, 5 Points; 4th division, 11th conference)

R.J. Umberger Derick Brassard Derek Dorsett
Artem Anisimov Brandon Dubinsky Nick Foligno
Vinny Prospal Ryan Johansen Jonathan Audy-Marchessault
Derek MacKenzie Mark Letestu Jared Boll
Jack Johnson James Wisniewski
Fedor Tyutin David Savard
John Moore Tim Erixon
Sergei Bobrovsky
Steve Mason

St. Louis Blues
(5-1-0, 10 Points; 2nd Division, 4th Conference)

David Perron David Backes T.J. Oshie
Andy McDonald Alex Steen Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Sobotka Patrik Berglund Chris Stewart
Jaden Schwartz Scott Nichol Ryan Reaves
Wade Redden Alex Pietrangelo
Barret Jackman Kevin Shattenkirk
Kris Russell Roman Polak
Brian Elliott
Jaroslav Halak

Season Series

01/31/13 - St. Louis at Columbus
02/23/13 - Columbus at St. Louis
04/05/13 - Columbus at St. Louis
04/12/13 - St. Louis at Columbus

Head to Head

St. Louis Columbus
3.83 (3) GPG 1.71 (27)
2.17 (6) GAPG 3.00 (20)
33.3% (3) PP% 11.8% (26)
75.0% (20) PK% 88.0% (5)
Vladimir Tarasenko / Chris Stewart, 4 G leader three tied, 2
Kevin Shattenkirk, 8 A leader Fedor Tyutin, 4
Vladimir Tarasenko / Kevin Shattenkirk, 8 Pts leader Fedor Tyutin, 5
Ryan Reaves, 19 PIM leader Jared Boll, 25
2-1-0 Road/Home 1-1-1
1/27 vs Minnesota, W 5-4 (OT) Last Game 1/29 @ Minnesota, L 3-2
5-1-0 Last 10 2-4-1

Game Notes

  • Special Teams - The Jackets' PP finally got off the schneide the other night, with their first PPG since the second game of the season. If the Blues have one perceived weakness, it's on the PK. The Jackets will need to get the zone early, set up shop, and make sure they have someone camped out down low to disrupt Elliott. I could do with a LOT less dump-and-chase on the PP. On the other side, the Jackets' PK has been very good, and they'll need to be again tonight with the Blues being very solid on the PP.
  • Shake and Niki6 - It's a bummer that Nikitin doesn't get a chance to go tonight, as I'm sure he wants to play and play well against his old club. We'll get another look at Little Shake Kris Russell. It seemed like an odd trade at the time, but in hindsight it was clearly a good move for both teams.
  • I've Got an APB Out for 18 and 16 - Has anyone seen RJ Umberger and Derick Brassard? It would be great if they would start showing up in the box scores. Brassard looks completely scope-locked on making the sick pass instead of using his solid shot. Umberger looks tired, and at times has actively looked to be waiting for someone else to make a play defensively. He did set up shop in front of the net on Jack Johnson's PPG the other night, which was a good sign. But, he needs to get his legs going, start winning those 50/50 board battles, and stop making bad passes.

I remember thinking that Chicago was going to simply light us up on Saturday, and but for a horrible interference call they would have had a chance at OT. Can they do that against another very, very good team tonight? Good lord, I hope so.

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