8:30 A.M. -- HOW ABOUT A DAY GAME? We're back at Nationwide Arena and getting ready for a 2 p.m. matinee against the Detroit Red Wings, and there will be plenty of things going on right here on the game day blog.
Here's what we know about today's game: the Red Wings are likely to start Jonas Gustavsson on the front end of this back-to-back set, with the second game coming tomorrow afternoon at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The expectation is that Sergei Bobrovsky will get the call for the Blue Jackets, and hopefully, we'll have that confirmed by the warm-up.
After racking up three assists - including the 500th of his NHL career - 38-year-old Vinny Prospal summed up tonight's 4-3 win thusly: "It's not easy for teams to come into this rink right now. They know they're in for a battle. These are the kind of hockey games that as a team, an organization…we need to learn how to win.”
They did that tonight against a desperate, hungry Nashville Predators team that seemed prime for some good fortune. Wrapping up their road trip at Nationwide Arena tonight, you got the sense that Barry Trotz's group had another push left in it; when the Blue Jackets appeared to put the cherry on top with about seven minutes to play, it was in fact quite the opposite.
Some of the Blue Jackets players said they got comfortable with their 4-1 lead and coach Todd Richards said his team "relaxed" with a sizable cushion -- but it's hard to blame them. Before tonight's 4-3 regulation win (a rarity of late), the Blue Jackets had gone to overtime in nine of their previous 10 games. The offensive outburst was uncharacteristic of them in this recent stretch, and as Ryan Johansen put it, "we were just sick of going to overtime."
If not for a little sag in the final minutes of regulation, this may have been one of the Blue Jackets' strongest "close outs" of a game this season. They sensed a little hesitation on the Nashville end of the ice and exploited it - and perhaps the biggest positive was the power play coming through with the game hanging in the balance.Read the complete post-game breakdown inside this blog post.
9:00 A.M. -- Good morning and happy game day, everyone! We've got a dandy on our hands tonight at Nationwide Arena. Sporting identical 11-12-6 records through the first 29 games of the 48-game season, the Blue Jackets and Predators begin their home stretch tonight in a crucial battle for playoff positioning in the Western Conference. Both clubs sat two points out of the eighth and final playoff spot entering today, and a win for either side could get them that much closer to being part of the race in the final month of the campaign.
Here's what we know: Sergei Bobrovsky, recently named the NHL's third star of the week, is the likely starter between the pipes for Columbus. It's expected that Pekka Rinne - who always plays well against the Blue Jackets - will start for Nashville.
We'll have the usual boatload of coverage throughout the morning and afternoon as the 7 p.m. puck drop approaches. Keep it locked right here for lineup news/notes, tonight's official starting goalies, ticket giveaways, other contests & maybe even YOUR tweets and pictures could find their way on the blog.
Todd Richards let out a chuckle when asked about conducting a complete practice this morning at Nationwide Arena. Due to the compressed schedule and a recent stretch that saw the Blue Jackets play nine games in a span of 16 days, the opportunities to hash out some things in practice were few and far between.
Days of rest - like the team had on Sunday with a day off - are just as essential to maintaining energy and mental sharpness for what figures to be a challenging closing stretch. Beginning with tomorrow's game against Nashville at Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets play their final 19 games in 40 days. That's approximately a game every other night with two road swings of four games or more mixed in.
So when Richards and his coaching staff sat down to map out today's practice - an important one given where the team sits in the standings despite a struggling power play and inconsistent scoring - he wasn't sure where to start. Of course, he said so jokingly but stressed that one side of the Blue Jackets' special teams clearly has to be better.
"When you go back and look at our games, systematically and how we're playing 5-on-5 and our penalty kill has been good all season," Richards said. "We're seeing improvements 5-on-5 and the one area that's been a bit of a letdown has been our power play. It's not so much getting the puck into their zone, it's once we get it there (that's been a problem).
"Our execution hasn't been good, we lose battles and we aren't moving fast enough or playing fast enough to have success. Today's a day where we can at least go out and talk about some things, get guys moving a little bit. Our penalty kill still had the upper hand today, and I guess that's not a surprise."
Read the full story from today's practice inside this blog post.
This is a fun little run now, isn't it? My goodness.
Not much else you can say after another dynamite performance from the guy who wears No. 72 and seemingly stops every puck headed in his direction. Sergei Bobrovsky made 39 saves tonight to equal a season high, turned away both Coyotes' attempts in the shootout, and helped the Blue Jackets pick up a monster victory tonight on home ice in the third game of a five-game home stand.
What we have here is a playoff race, friends.
As for regulation and overtime tonight, you could call it a chess match or you could call it rather uneventful, but the latter would be wrong. These were two teams playing desperate hockey and needed the points to keep pace in the Western Conference, and not surprisingly, they ended up playing yet another one-goal game. That's nine of the last 10 for the Blue Jackets to go beyond regulation and tonight was their fourth consecutive shootout.
Jack Johnson quipped post-game: "It's like a 52-game schedule with all these overtime games." Yeah, that's about accurate.
The Blue Jackets got a big effort from the full group tonight, as well, playing a sharp game inside their own end and not giving the Coyotes second and third chances due to turnovers and careless mistakes. They were on their game tonight, and obviously, so was their goaltender.
Get complete post-game analysis on tonight's big win inside this blog post.
The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, are riding a franchise-best nine game points streak entering tonight and are aiming to get back in the win column after consecutive shootout losses to Vancouver and Chicago.
In case you missed it yesterday, John Moore has been activated off injured reserve and will make his return to the lineup tonight. He's been out since March 1 when he was injured in the morning skate at United Center. Cody Goloubef heads back to Springfield to make room for Moore.
Also, Sean Collins is here on emergency recall from the Falcons in case of the Blue Jackets' forwards is unable to play tonight. I suspect we'll get more details from coach Todd Richards following the morning skate, which begins in just a few minutes.
Stay tuned to the Game Day blog for all the latest -- you won't want to miss the photos, updates, lineups & ticket giveaways we'll have throughout the day!
Reaching into the memory bank, it's hard to remember an overtime period that had the heartbeat pumping like we saw tonight. From start to finish, it was an absolute roller coaster and every single one of the 15,009 in attendance got their money's worth regardless of the result.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards has previously said that the Blackhawks are a club that's not afraid to trade scoring chances because they're confident enough to out-score the opposition, but tonight, it wasn't the case. Columbus did well to limit the effectiveness of Chicago's top players through 65 minutes of regulation and overtime, and unfortunately, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane's only significant impact decided the outcome.
Sergei Bobrovsky was a difference-maker yet again. He made 39 saves before facing a shootout for the third consecutive game, and mixed in was a handful of incredible saves to keep the Blue Jackets in the game. Nationwide Arena gave Bobrovsky two standing ovations in the third period and a roaring cheer in overtime, as he lunged back to take away a sure goal from Dave Bolland.
All in all, the Blue Jackets are still playing the same brand of hockey: aggressive, "on your toes" hockey that disrupts the opposition's rhythm. The Blackhawks looked unnerved at times tonight and a lot of it had to do with how the Blue Jackets feverishly pursued the puck.
Get complete post-game analysis of tonight's game inside this blog post.
Well, this ought to be fun.
Completed by today's seal of approval from the NHL's Board of Governors, a new league realignment plan will be implemented immediately. The Blue Jackets are headed to the Eastern Conference next season and join a brand new division that's sure to be both convenient and exciting. I'm all for it, and, for us here in Columbus, it's huge.
Let me rephrase: huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge.
Think about it: road trips are significantly reduced, you can pretty much wave "bye bye" to this 10 p.m. and later start times out on the west coast, and those two-week gaps between home games at Nationwide Arena? See ya later, alligator.
If my name is "the 7 p.m. time slot," I'm going into marathon-training mode the way I'm going to get used over the next few years and beyond. That coffee maker you tend to fire up when the Blue Jackets are out west? Let him rest after dinner time -- you won't be needing him.
After this season is complete, it's going to be like moving into a new neighborhood. Over the next few months, take your time in awkwardly looking around and checking out what car the guy who lives two doors down is driving and try to get accustomed to that annoying dog in the backyard behind you.
You'll soon find out who mows their lawn on a normal schedule, and who prefers to let it grow out and masquerade their mailbox. Whose kids are flat-out obnoxious, and whose would you welcome into your home and look the other way if they slammed handfuls of Oreos? In a roundabout way, this is NHL realignment: sure, the Blue Jackets aren't entering an entirely new world but the surroundings are going to be fresh.Read the rest of Rob's take on NHL realignment inside this blog post.
9:00 A.M. -- LET'S GO JACKETS: Alright CBJ fans, we've got one last crack at the Chicago Blackhawks and that takes place tonight at Nationwide Arena. The previous three matchups in the season series have all been decided by one goal, the last being a 4-3 overtime win by the Blackhawks at United Center on Mar. 1.
Here's what we know so far: the Blackhawks are planning to start Corey Crawford in goal tonight against the Blue Jackets, and his last appearance against Columbus was a 1-0 shutout win on Feb. 24. The Blue Jackets need to get more pucks on Crawford than they did in that game, and based on their performances in the past seven games, they've adopted that mentality ten-fold.
As for the Blue Jackets, we don't yet know who will be starting in goal -- but in order to find out first, you'll want to keep it locked right here on the game day blog. If it happens at the Blue Jackets morning skate, we'll post it here first.