6:30 A.M. -- UP AND AT 'EM! Rise and shine, Blue Jackets fans...this is a big day and there's a big ole hockey game going on at Nationwide Arena later this evening. Four points back of eighth-place Detroit with nine games to go, the Blue Jackets face a "do-or-die" scenario and that's how they're going to approach their remaining games.
Can they run the table? It's definitely possible and if they were to do so, you have to like their odds of qualifying for the playoffs. But let's not get ahead of ourselves; the most important game is tonight and the focus is on the San Jose Sharks, who have spent a day or so in Columbus after a 5-4 shootout loss on home ice that left a little salt in their wounds.
The Sharks didn't like the way they played in that loss to Dallas and their last game at Nationwide Arena wasn't so hot, either. The Blue Jackets dropped six goals on them in a rout, and you can bet that will be on their minds.
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Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards didn't need to think very long before stating that the second period and special teams were the difference in tonight's hockey game.
After an uneventful first period with both teams trying to find their legs and feel the game out, the second period saw a lot of action but it was at the wrong end of the ice for the Jackets. They were out-shot 11-4 in the middle frame and spent several shifts chasing the puck, causing a lot of work for Sergei Bobrovsky and a lot of retrieving for the defense corps.
Ryan Suter - who played a brilliant game on the blue line for Minnesota - opened the scoring with a crafty wrist shot through traffic at 3:13 of the second period, the first of two power-play markers for the Wild. The Blue Jackets had a chance to answer back, but the man advantage was not their friend tonight: Columbus went 0-for-4 on the power play and registered just three shots on goal combined.
The Wild got the game's biggest goal late in the second period from Charlie Coyle, who was camped at the back post after a Jackets turnover while shorthanded. Jason Pominville's first goal with Minnesota made it 3-0 in the final minutes of regulation.
With that being said: while it's a disappointing loss for the Blue Jackets in the grand scheme of this playoff race, there's too much time left for them to hang their heads. They have two more games at Nationwide Arena this week before embarking on a six-game road trip, and the points only get more important from here.
Marian Gaborik had a loud debut in the Blue Jackets' 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night, and he wants to experience another loud debut this afternoon.
It was a wild, somewhat-surreal 24-hour stretch that began with Wednesday's trading deadline. Gaborik, preparing for his mid-afternoon nap before the New York Rangers faced the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden, looked at his ringing cell phone and saw Glen Sather's name pop up.
Less than an hour later, Gaborik signed a no-trade waiver and became a member of the Blue Jackets in a six-player deal that sent shock waves around the NHL.
John Davidson, who spoke with Gaborik over the phone while the trade was being finalized, took a private plane to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and met the team's newest acquisition. Davidson and the Blue Jackets wanted Gaborik to feel welcomed and also wanted him in the lineup as soon as possible, and they flew from Teterboro to Nashville where Gaborik met his new teammates for the first time.
All Gaborik did in his Jackets debut was tally the game-winning goal in the third period, pick up an assist on James Wisniewski's power play goal and play big minutes on a newly-assembled line with Artem Anisimov at center and Vinny Prospal on left wing.
That trio will remain intact as Columbus faces a pivotal game against the Minnesota Wild this afternoon - ironically enough, the club that drafted Gaborik third overall in 2000.
7:00 A.M. -- WELCOME HOME: Well, no sooner did the Blue Jackets arrive in Columbus off a two-game road swing to Nashville and St. Louis than did their attention shift to today's game against the Minnesota Wild. You'll be hearing us say this a lot in these final 10 games (but mostly because it's true)...but this is a huuuuuge game in the Western Conference playoff picture.
The Blue Jackets, sitting three points back of eighth-place St. Louis, did get some help yesterday. Chicago beat Nashville in regulation, and Los Angeles picked up a 4-1 win over Edmonton to ensure that the Blue Jackets' position did not change entering Sunday.
Marian Gaborik plays his third game against the team that drafted him today, and he's got a goal and an assist in the two previous meetings with Minnesota.
Here's a highlight of Gaborik's first goal as a Blue Jacket, which happened to be the game-winner in Nashville:
6:30 A.M. -- BACK TO BACK: Welcome to Columbus, Marian Gaborik! The Blue Jackets got quite the debut from their trade deadline acquisition last night in Nashville, with Gaborik notching the game-winning goal in the third period off a nice pass from Brandon Dubinsky.
With the win, Columbus improved its record to 16-14-7 on the season and pulled into a points tie (39) with Edmonton and one point behind St. Louis -- the Blue Jackets' opponent tonight at Scottrade Center.
Every game is huge this time of the year, but as the coaches will say, the biggest next is always the next game. There's a lot on the line tonight and both clubs know that, which leads us to believe we're in for quite the hockey game when 8 p.m. rolls around.
You want highlights of last night's game? Of course you do, so here they are:
The early part of yesterday's NHL trade deadline bonanza was more like a pitcher's duel: an exercise in strategic positioning, shrewd signals and no tipping of the hands.
For those folks who took the day off work to enjoy the trade deadline with friends, have some beers and relax, they got their wish on the relaxing part with a lack of activity around the league until the 2 p.m. hour struck. As it does every year, the final hour before the deadline had an almost-Pavlovian effect -- and then it all kicked into high gear.
To continue on this baseball analogy, the Blue Jackets began to make their move as the day went along. When talks became serious on Marian Gaborik, it was like GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the hockey operations staff started to get runners on base and then move them over...slowly but surely.
By roughly 2:15 p.m. ET, they had agreed on a major deal with the Rangers and had loaded the bases.
With the final approval from Gaborik himself, the 31-year-old star forward cleared the bases by showing no hesitation in joining the Blue Jackets. Kekalainen and Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson had orchestrated the biggest deal of deadline day and made waves around the hockey world by acquiring a crucial piece in their playoff push -- but the most incredible thing is they did so without compromising the future of the organization.
The Blue Jackets stuck to their game plan with regard to the future, but they also had a keen and aggressive eye on the present. Sitting one point out of a playoff spot with 12 games to play - the biggest of which taking place in just a few hours at Bridgestone Arena - they wanted to add to the current group and boost the offense.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- What began as a standard Wednesday afternoon lunch with a few teammates quickly turned into a new opportunity for Blake Comeau.
Hanging around after a morning practice in Calgary, Comeau was exchanging text messages with his agent about when they could meet up when the team came through Colorado next week. With Comeau's contract due to expire at the end of the season and the prospect of unrestricted free agency looming, he was looking to get a head start and begin planning.
Instead, his agent soon replied that things were changing in short order.
Seeking forward depth in the wake of yesterday's trade with the New York Rangers, the Blue Jackets sought a versatile, two-way forward like Comeau to play in all situations and chip in some offense. The 27-year-old grew into a similar role with the Flames after being picked up off the waiver wire from the New York Islanders a year ago, and saw his production increase with increased responsibility on the ice.
"I think I can bring some things to (the Blue Jackets) with my physical play and my speed," Comeau said. "In speaking with them on the phone, that's what they're excited to have...I feel like as my ice time grew with the Flames, my numbers started to grow and I started to gain confidence. Hopefully, that can continue in Columbus."
7:00 A.M. -- BIG TILT TONIGHT: How's everyone doing this morning? Some kind of exciting day we had at Nationwide Arena yesterday with the Blue Jackets making headlines at the NHL trade deadline. Acquiring Marian Gaborik in a seven-piece deal from the New York Rangers, getting a backup goaltender from the Flyers in a trade for Steve Mason and adding forward depth with Blake Comeau from Calgary...it's safe to say John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen checked the items off their shopping list.
Gaborik was met in New York by Davidson yesterday and the two flew to Nashville via private plane to meet the team. The Slovak sniper is expected in the Blue Jackets lineup tonight at Bridgestone Arena and he'll be sporting his familiar No. 10, which was graciously yielded by Mark Letestu.
Before we get this blog really fired up today, let's re-live a pretty sweet moment from a few weeks back when the Jackets and Predators met in Columbus: