This may be the first meeting of the season between the Blue Jackets and Canucks, but the two clubs are certainly familiar foes.
Even though they face each other just four times per season (and three times in 2013 due to the shortened schedule), there always seems to be an element of anticipation when they get together. Call it bad blood, call it general rivalry-ish behavior, but the Blue Jackets and Canucks don't seem to like each other very much, and both sides are okay with that.
As we get set for Thursday's game at Nationwide Arena, we're looking at two teams headed in completely different directions. The Blue Jackets, so often on the wrong end of one-goal games, have strung together a four-game points streak and have won back-to-back games after a 4-3 shootout win on Tuesday over the Edmonton Oilers. On the flip side, Vancouver has hit a rough patch and can't separate itself from the Minnesota Wild just three points back in the standings.
The Canucks are 0-4-1 in their last five games, and the Blue Jackets are suddenly 3-2-2 in their past seven contests. Hard to tell which way this one will go (most likely because I have no bearing on the result), but my gut tells me we'll watch an entertaining hockey game between two very competitive teams tonight at Nationwide Arena.Get tonight's "three keys" to success for the Jackets inside this blog post.
Brandon Dubinsky, sitting in his locker stall after an afternoon practice at Nationwide Arena, was troubled to hear of former teammate Marc Staal's frightening injury last night at Madison Square Garden.
It's something that players, coaches and fans dread and hate to see: a player who is seriously hurt and possibly has his long-term health put at risk by a freak accident in a hockey game. Staal, a star defenseman for the New York Rangers, took a deflected shot to his right eye in the third period of last night's game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The scene was hard to watch with Staal writhing in pain on the ice as medical staff rushed to assist him, and elsewhere in the NHL, it sparked conversation of visors in the NHL.
This generation of hockey players coming into the professional ranks is required to wear visors, and in some cases, full cages if playing in the U.S. college hockey system. Canadian major junior hockey governing bodies require the use of visors and they are now mandatory in the American Hockey League, but in the NHL, it still remains a player's decision.
Dubinsky, who wore a visor while playing for the ECHL's Alaska Aces during the lockout, went back to his visor-less preference when the NHL season began in mid-January. He's now in his seventh NHL season and, though he doesn't have a particular reason for not wearing one, admitted that he's entertained the idea of adding a shield.
"I can't tell you why I don't wear one, to be honest with you," Dubinsky said after practice today. "To me, as stupid as it sounds and there's not really an explanation for it...growing up watching the NHL, nobody wore visors and it was cool. That's just sort of the way it was."Read today's full story on visors & player safety inside this blog post.
Sergei Bobrovsky was solid upon entering tonight's game against the Edmonton Oilers, but he waited until the most critical juncture to make one the most important saves of the year for the Blue Jackets.
It was an unfortunate penalty on Nick Foligno, and one that the NHL and its referees are watching closely this season: Foligno went down behind the net in overtime and closed his hand on the puck in an attempt to move it forward, but referee Marc Joannette spotted the violation from the side of the net, and it gave the Oilers a 4-on-3 power play with the hockey game in the balance.
Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu and Fedor Tyutin were the three penalty killers for the Blue Jackets, who had to deal with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, Ales Hemsky and Jordan Eberle on the man advantage -- not exactly a cakewalk two minutes, one might say.
Bobrovsky, who made 18 saves in regulation, added a game-changer on Eberle in overtime: Nugent-Hopkins slid a pass through the box to Eberle at the back post, and though it looked like he had an open net, Bobrovsky got across and made a save that got his teammates fired up on the ice and on the bench.
"It was huge for momentum...huge," Anisimov told BlueJackets.com. "It's not easy to play 4-on-3, and it's not easy to defend. The first save...that was nice, big for us. It's a tough play for me because it's back-door and there's a guy up high, too. I couldn't catch him with my stick.
"Bob made that save and I'm like 'yes, we're still in this.' It was great."Read the full story on Bobrovsky's big night inside this blog post.
A coach has a small number of cards to play, and one of them is changing the goaltender. Sometimes it works, and others it doesn't -- and it's definitely not a guarantee.
Todd Richards didn't like the pair of goals allowed by Steve Mason late in the first period and early in the second period, but he also acknowledged that his team was rather sloppy in its own end, leading to several chances for the Edmonton Oilers. When facing a skilled, aggressive team like the Oilers, those small mistakes are exponentially magnified.
When the Blue Jackets fell behind 3-2, it was a major turning point: Richards installed Sergei Bobrovsky in the net and despite coming in cold, he steadied the ship and made some game-saving stops along the way. Teams need that on occasion, and Bobrovsky was very sharp in relief tonight.
He did not allow a goal in regulation, overtime or the shootout -- and it was a catalyst for the Blue Jackets' second consecutive win.
Vinny Prospal was very good tonight, with a goal and an assist to along with energy throughout the contest. In his first game back from an upper body injury, Jack Johnson scored the tying goal in the third period and played nearly 27 minutes in all situations -- not bad for a guy getting back on the ice for the first time since a loss in St. Louis a couple of weeks ago.Get full analysis of tonight's shootout win inside this blog post!
The Blue Jackets were back at Nationwide Arena this morning to prepare for their game against the Edmonton Oilers at 7 p.m. tonight. The Blue Jackets last met the Oilers on Feb. 10 at home, a contest they lost 3-1 despite outshooting their opponents by a 40-14 margin. They hope to win tonight and earn their first back-to-back wins of the season.
Here are some of the major stories and quotes that came from the team’s post-skate media scrum this morning:
Jack Johnson will return to the lineup tonight after missing four games due to an upper body injury he sustained against St. Louis on Feb. 23. Although proud of the team’s efforts over the past several games, he said it has been hard to sit and watch the games.
“To come down after you win or tough games and everyone has contributed and battled, and all you can do is cheer for them – it’s frustrating, but that’s sports,” Johnson said.
“They’ve played well. We’ve been in every game, and have had a chance to win every game.”
Johnson isn’t the only one to return from injury tonight. Derick Brassard, who has not played since Feb. 26 against the Dallas Stars, is slated to return tonight as well.
“Feeling really good, it’s been a tough four or five days, but I’m ready to go 100 percent, and I’m ready to help my team,” Brassard said after the skate. “They’ve been playing really good, so I can’t wait for tonight.”Catch more of today's "Overheard" storylines inside this blog post.
GETTIN' STARTED EARLY: So I haven't moved on to from the thrilling finish to Sunday's game yet...which is why I've included video of Anisimov's game-winner against Colorado for you to enjoy one more time. Or 47 more, if you wish. It's up to you to re-live the #ArtyParty.
The Blue Jackets are in the midst of a stretch that sees them play nine of 10 at Nationwide Arena, including four straight - and the second of those four is tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, a team desperately seeking a victory. The Oilers have dropped back-to-back games and in disappointing fashion; they let a 2-0 lead in St. Louis get away from them on Friday, and Sunday in Minnesota, let a pair of quick third-period goals by the Wild derail them.
We'll continue to keep this page fresh with links, pertinent information, photos and interviews as we roll along toward game time. Keep it tuned to CBJ Today and this game day blog.
If it happens on game day, we'll have it right here.
The Blue Jackets have been looking for consistency and results after struggling through a stretch of hard-fought, one-goal contests. The first step in the right direction came Sunday afternoon against the Colorado Avalanche, a pesky team that likes to push the pace on its opponents.
Not unlike the Avalanche are the Edmonton Oilers, who possess world-class skill on their top two lines and aren't afraid to open the game up and beat teams on the counterattack. They have learned to play a more patient and responsible game under first-year head coach Ralph Krueger, but have struggled in their past two games with giving up leads.
Edmonton held a 2-0 lead on Friday night in St. Louis and went into the third period tied 1-1 with Minnesota on Sunday, and lost both games by an identical 4-2 final. In the midst of a season-long nine-game road trip (thanks to men's curling championships being held at Rexall Place), the Oilers are well aware that they can either climb the playoff ladder or fall out of reach pending the outcome of this trip.
Looks as if Devan Dubnyk will carry the load in net for the Oilers, especially with Nikolai Khabibulin on the shelf with a groin injury. Dubnyk is expected to get the call tonight against the Blue Jackets, while it's possible Columbus will go back to Sergei Bobrovsky.Check out tonight's "three keys" to success for the Jackets inside this blog post.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The NHL announced some tweaks to its draft lottery system this afternoon, changes that will go into effect beginning with this year's draft in Newark, N.J.
For the first time in league history, all 14 non-playoff teams will have a chance at obtaining the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft -- as opposed to the previous system, under which a certain number of teams (bottom five in the league) could move up no more than four spots and get the top selection via lottery.
There is a new, weighted system in place for the lottery, which takes place April 29 on the eve of the Stanley Cup playoffs. No team in the lottery can fall more than one spot in the order, which is to say the 30th-place team cannot pick below second overall under this arrangement, and so on and so forth.
With three first-round draft picks for the first time in frachise history, the Blue Jackets figure to be a major part of this year's lottery and draft. John Davidson and new GM Jarmo Kekalainen also had three first-round picks during the 2007 NHL Draft, which was held at Nationwide Arena.
Double bonus tonight for the Blue Jackets: not only did they come out on the sunny side of a one-goal game, their power play propelled them to victory today at Nationwide Arena.
If there were two things due to turn in their favor, those would top the list. The power play's efficiency isn't something to hang your hat on - especially when the results aren't there - but there's been no denying the chances it has generated for the Blue Jackets. They simply have not been able to convert and it's cost them games in the past, but not in this game.
Vinny Prospal's team-leading eighth of the season was Columbus' first power play tally of the night, and he got a little assistance from recently-signed Avalanche center Ryan O'Reilly on the play. O'Reilly knelt down in front of Semyon Varlamov to cut off the passing line, but Prospal wisely threw the puck toward the net, deflecting off O'Reilly and into the net to tie the game.
Goes to show how un-glorious the 5-on-3 needs to be sometimes, doesn't it? Forget the snappy puck movement and slam-dunk opportunities, just take advantage of the numerical, er, advantage and make something happen. The wise veteran did just that, and it still counts as a PPG when all is said and done.Check out complete post-game analysis from today's 2-1 OT win inside this blog post.