The Jackets continue to play solid hockey, and continue getting cracks at teams right in front of them in the standings (Colorado and Vancouver last week, Edmonton tonight). This is their second-to-last game before the All Star break, and tomorrow’s game in Calgary is going to be a tough one. So, tonight’s tilt with the Oilers is that much more important, as every point is critical for the Jackets now, especially against teams right next to them in the standings.
Columbus Blue Jackets:
LW: Kristian Huselius – Fredrik Modin – Andrew Murray – Raffi Torres
C: Manny Malhotra – R.J. Umberger – Michael Peca – Jason Williams
RW: Rick Nash – Derek Dorsett – Jakub Voracek – Jared Boll
D: Jan Hejda – Fedor Tyutin – Kris Russell
D: Mike Commodore – Marc Methot – Ole-Kristian Tollefsen
G: Steve Mason
LW: Dustin Penner – Liam Reddox – Ethan Moreau – Jason Strudwick
C: Shawn Horcoff – Sam Gagner – Andrew Cogliano – Kyle Brodziak
RW: Ales Hemsky – Erik Cole – Marc-Antoine Pouliot – Gilbert Brule
D: Sheldon Souray – Denis Grebeshkov – Ladislav Smid
D: Tom Gilbert – Lubomir Visnovsky – Steve Staios
G: Dwayne Roloson
CBJ – 2.64 gpg (20th NHL)
EDM – 2.80 gpg (t14th NHL)
CBJ – 2.69 gapg (8th NHL)
EDM – 2.96 gapg (t23rd NHL)
CBJ – 11.3% (30th NHL)
EDM – 17.6% (16th NHL)
CBJ – 80.4% (19th NHL)
EDM – 76.0% (28th NHL)
This one is a biggie. Both Edmonton and Columbus are sitting there on the outside looking in, with the Oilers at 49 points and the Jackets at 48. Edmonton is on the losing end of a tie-breaker with eighth seed Minnesota. However, the interesting thing in all of this is that the fifth seed Anaheim Ducks are a mere 3 points ahead of the 10th seed Jackets. And, the Jackets, Oilers, and Wild each have two games in hand (they’ve all played 45, whereas Anaheim, sixth-seed Phoenix, and seventh seed Vancouver have all played 47). So, yeah, all of that math aside, it’s a biggie alright.
It’s hard to say which team has the edge, beyond Edmonton’s home-ice. Columbus has won eight of 11, including five of seven on the road. Edmonton has won four of five. The two previous meetings between these two clubs are a bit out of synch: the first game was Steve Mason’s CBJ debut, and the second game featured a battling-injury-and-rusty Pascal LeClaire melting down in the third period. Edmonton plays a little faster and looser than the Jackets, whereas Columbus is content to play stifling defense, rely on their goal-tender, and try to capitalize on timely scoring chances. Both teams’ special teams kind of cancel each other out: Edmonton is solid enough on the Power Play, and Columbus is likewise solid on the Penalty Kill; the other side of the coin is equally balanced, with both teams struggling on the other end (Columbus PP and Edmonton PK). In fact, looking at the greater numbers, both teams seem to offset each other fairly well.
The Jackets didn’t have their legs Sunday against Vancouver, but managed to hang around and eek out a win against the snake-bit-of-late Canucks. They will have to have their jump tonight against Edmonton to win again. To that end, the defensive units need to come out and establish a physical game early, and to limit the scoring chances in front of Steve Mason. Rick Nash needs to have another solid game in his second contest back from a knee injury. Newcomer Jason Williams has had two decent games since coming over from Atlanta, including notching a Power Play goal against Vancouver, and he needs to continue to help the momentum on the Power Play. He definitely has initially made that unit stronger, and if Columbus is going to compete they need to continue to improve on the PP. Most of all, they need to continue grinding as they have on the road over their last seven, where they have been in every game. The Oilers know just as well as the Jackets do how big a game this is going into the Break, and they’re going to be ready.
From The Outside Looking In
Next Game For The Jackets
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
10:00 PM EST
Columbus Blue Jackets at Calgary Flames