“Tonight was about trying some things different.” So said coach Scott Arniel afterward. With just seven games left on the schedule, the Jackets have been limping home. Awaiting them tonight in Nationwide Arena was a team from the Eastern Conference in the same boat. Columbus came in 10-3-2 against the East, and had already beaten Florida once this season. The Panthers came in with eight fewer points than Columbus, and just as bleak an outlook. Columbus came out early looking intent on bringing their best effort. But it would once again come down to a third period lead lost, and the Jackets struggling to put the puck in the net while staring the of-late nemesis—the shootout—squarely in the face.
Columbus Blue Jackets (37-28-6, 80pts)
vs. Florida Panthers (35-26-10, 80pts)
Bank Atlantic Center, Sunrise, FL
Saturday, March 21, 2009
7:00 PM EDT
The Jackets are back on the road, for their second to last “road trip” of the season: after this two-game Florida swing (tonight and Tuesday in Tampa), the Jackets only have one more instance of more than one road game in a row the rest of the way. Both teams are tied at 80 points, but where the Jackets are sitting in sixth in the West, 80 points is only good enough for ninth in the East. Thus, the Panthers arguably need this one more than the Jackets do. Both teams are near mirror images of each other (check the numbers after the jump), and so this game really is kind of a toss up. But, I think Columbus has a few advantages that should hopefully push them over the top.