Columbus Blue Jackets (30-23-6, 66pts)
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
Saturday, February 21, 2009
7:00 PM EST
The Jackets are at the finish line of their stretch of six games in nine days, and at the moment are 4-0-1 in that stretch, 6-0-1 in their last seven, and are 8-3-1 since the All Star Break. In other words, the Jackets are HOT. This is the final home game before the Jackets get a couple of well-deserved days off and then head back to the Western Canadian Corridor for their last real “road trip” of the season. The Ducks come to town tonight, fresh off a humbling 5-2 loss in Detroit Friday night, and has lost three in a row and 11 of 18. Anaheim was once solidly in the middle of the playoff standings, but due to these recent struggles find themselves currently on the outside looking in. Columbus has a very real chance of dealing a serious blow to the Ducks’ playoff hopes tonight.
|LW:||Bobby Ryan||Chris Kunitz||Travis Moen||Mike Brown|
|C:||Ryan Getzlaf||Andrew Ebbett||Todd Marchant||Brendan Morrison|
|RW:||Corey Perry||Teemu Selanne||Rob Niedermayer||George Parros|
|D:||Scott Niedermayer||Bret Hedican||Brian Salcido|
|D:||Chris Pronger||Steve Montador||Sheldon Brookbank|
Columbus Blue Jackets:
|LW:||Kristian Huselius||R.J. Umberger||Raffi Torres||Andrew Murray|
|C:||Manny Malhotra||Jason Williams||Michael Peca||Jiri Novotny|
|RW:||Rick Nash||Jakub Voracek||Jared Boll||Derek Dorsett|
|D:||Jan Hejda||Fedor Tyutin||Kris Russell|
|D:||Mike Commodore||Christian Backman||Marc Methot|
ANA – 2.75 gpg (18th NHL)
CBJ – 2.69 gpg (20th NHL)
ANA – 2.88 gapg (t17th NHL)
CBJ – 2.69 gapg (t7th NHL)
ANA – 22.1% (6th NHL)
CBJ – 12.6% (30th NHL)
ANA – 80.5% (t18th NHL)
CBJ – 81.6% (t15th NHL)
Who To Root For
Thanks to the great people at Sports Club Stats, we can also look at what the rest of the league is doing, and who (as Jackets fans) we need to root for tonight to help the cause, as well:
Anaheim at Columbus
Calgary at Edmonton
Detroit at Minnesota
Phoenix at Los Angeles
Vancouver at Toronto
Chicago at Dallas
Nashville at St. Louis (technically a win by either team helps the CBJ)
This is a big game for both teams. Anaheim is hanging on to their playoff chances by a thin thread, having lost three straight. Columbus is surging, but is admittedly tired after playing five games in a stretch of seven days. The Jackets had a much-needed night off on Friday, whereas the Ducks played Friday night in Detroit, getting humbled 5-2. On paper, these teams are similar, with the one huge advantage being on the Power Play for Anaheim. The Jackets hold the edge on defense and on the Penalty Kill. The Ducks major weakness is that they take more penalties than they should. Columbus certainly isn’t a major threat on the Power Play, but they’ve played better of late on the man advantage.
Columbus has been playing very well of late because they are setting up a solid forecheck, playing better defense, and Steve Mason looks to be close to completely back to the his level of play before struggling and missing time with mononucleosis. The forwards are capitalizing on scoring chances, and the top pair of defensemen (Jan Hejda and Mike Commodore) have really elevated their game. Much like the game earlier this week against St. Louis, Anaheim has a very, very good Power Play, and Columbus needs to maintain discipline and not take stupid penalties like they did in the lackluster third period against St. Louis, where the Blues’ PP finally burned the Jackets.
Columbus is playing without Jason Chimera, who is still suffering a bit with his groin injury that kept him out for around a month earlier this season. I’m speculating above that Raffi Torres will take his spot on the third line, with Derek Dorsett moving back into the lineup on the fourth line. Chimera’s speed and physical style will be missed in a game that promises to be a heavy-hitting, big impact game.
Anaheim is scuffling, but sometimes desperate teams are the most deadly to face. Columbus is looking to even the season series in this fourth and final meeting, and because of the number of games that the Ducks have played, a Jackets win will deal a serious shot to the Ducks’ hopes of making the playoffs. This is the worst time of the season to have a four-game losing streak, and that’s exactly what Anaheim would have if Columbus were to win tonight. The Ducks are only one point out of the eighth spot right now, but with the teams both in front and behind them all having games in hand, another loss would cripple their chances.
That is precisely why Columbus needs to come out and jump on them early.
Get them out of their game, play disciplined, Ken Hitchcock hockey, and the rest will take care of itself.
Side game notes:
- Though 501 wins is not a fanfare-inducing as 500, a win tonight would tie Ken Hitchcock with Pat Burns for 11th on the all-time coaching wins list.
- Ducks centerman Todd Marchant played in Columbus during the ‘03-‘04 season, and for 18 games during the ‘05-‘06 season before being placed on waivers and picked up by the Ducks.
- Due to an OhioDucks State basketball game being on at the same time, this game will not be heard on WBNS 1460 AM radio in Columbus. It will remain on the air on WWCD 101.1 FM in Columbus, as well as the normal Fox Sports Ohio on TV… where it will compete in Ohio with the Cavaliers game. Most Columbus cable companies have an FSO alternate feed, so viewers can see both if they choose.
Next Game For The Jackets
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
9:00 PM EST
Columbus Blue Jackets at Calgary Flames