Game Day Central: Blue Jackets vs. Maple Leafs

Thursday, 10.24.2013 / 10:00 PM
BlueJackets.com Staff

SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: The Leafs got an early goal (40 seconds in) from Phil Kessel to even things up at 1-1 but the Blue Jackets recovered well after that defensive miscue. Of course, the one Leafs player you probably don't want to leave alone is Kessel, but it's just one goal and the Blue Jackets are all square entering the third period here at Nationwide Arena. Shots are 23-13 favoring Columbus, and much like the first period, they spent a lot of time in the Leafs zone later in the period. Toronto's defense is having all kinds of trouble keeping the Johansen line out of their zone, and that low cycle game is really going for Columbus.

FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: If you're the Blue Jackets, that's kind of the start you were looking for. Energetic pace up and down the rink isn't exactly their game, but they have managed the puck well and defended nicely in their own end. The Leafs put up just four shots in the first period but you'd expect that to change as the games moves along. Great goal by Ryan Murray - the first of his NHL career - on the power play to put the Jackets in front. Shots are 16-5 favoring Columbus after 20 minutes.

UPDATE (12:35 PM): Boone Jenner, also an Ontario native, chatted with Jackets TV about tonight's game against the Leafs.

UPDATE (11:45 AM): The Leafs are currently on the ice for their morning skate at Nationwide Arena. Joffrey Lupul, who took a shot off the skate at practice on Thursday, is not skating with his teammates. It appears as if Jonathan Bernier will start in goal for Toronto.

UPDATE (11:25 AM): Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards just met with the media. Here are some highlights of what he had to say...

- Jared Boll missed the morning skate due to illness, but Richards said it's not expected to keep him out of the lineup tonight.

- As for the Leafs, Richards said this is another good test for his team and the Blue Jackets have to be ready for an energized visitors' side. They get Clarkson back tonight and he'll add some grit and skill around the front of the net, Richards said, and makes a deep lineup even deeper.

- The Blue Jackets' penalty kill hasn't exactly struggled, per se, but Richards still wants to see more consistency out of that group. He doesn't want the PK to fall into its late-season pattern in 2012-13 where it was giving up a goal per game in the final few weeks; he wants to see a PK that saps momentum fron the opposition with aggressive play and smart positioning.

UPDATE (10:35 AM): The Jackets have wrapped up their morning skate and we'll be meeting with them in the locker room here within a few minutes.

UPDATE (10:20 AM): No other lineup changes in the morning skate for the Blue Jackets, who are expected to go with the same lineup as they did against Vancouver and New Jersey. Sergei Bobrovsky starts in goal while James Reimer is expected to go for Toronto, which begins a back-to-back set of games tonight in Columbus.

UPDATE (10:05 AM): Jared Boll is absent from today's morning skate at Nationwide Arena. In his place, Cody Bass (who has shed the no-contact jersey) was taking rushes in his place. We'll have a further update on Boll after we speak with Todd Richards.

THURSDAY UPDATE: The Blue Jackets are scheduled for their normal 10AM game-day skate prior to facing the Maple Leafs on Friday night. It should be a terrific atmosphere at Nationwide Arena between two teams playing well right now, and in addition, it's Leafs forward David Clarkson's first game with the club. Clarkson recently finished serving a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench to join an altercation in the preseason.

We will have all the latest news and updates from the morning skate right here at Game Day Central. Stay tuned!

ROSTER REPORT

The only drastic roster change for Friday's game surrounds the Maple Leafs.

If you've not heard by now, David Clarkson is expected to make his Toronto debut after serving a 10-game suspension to start the season. Clarkson was involved in a preseason incident in which he left the Leafs bench to join a fight against the Buffalo Sabres. A native of suburban Toronto, Clarkson signed a huge seven-year contract with the Leafs this summer and was one of the most sought-after free agents. His addition to a Leafs team that's already playing well should be a significant boost.

For the Blue Jackets, things are status quo after Tuesday's win over the New Jersey Devils. Look for the forward lines and defense pairs to remain the same after back-to-back wins, and yes, Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start in goal for Columbus. Jonathan Bernier, acquired in an offseason trade with Los Angeles, is slated to start for Randy Carlyle's Leafs.

UPDATE: Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said today that Jared Boll, who missed the morning skate due to illness, is expected to play tonight vs. the Maple Leafs.

GAME PREVIEW

Friday's big story line is obviously the debut of Clarkson for Toronto, but he is joining a Leafs offense that has already produced at a ridiculous rate in its first 10 games. The Leafs have won seven of their first 10 games and have done so with their usual uptempo style that forces opponents back on their heels, and they are a team that isn't afraid to trade chances because of how dangerous their offense is.

Phil Kessel, who scored a hat trick in Toronto's come-from-behind win over Anaheim earlier this week, leads the way with 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 10 games and Joffrey Lupul is right behind him. Lupul leads the Leafs in goals (six) and he's one of six Leafs to have recorded at least eight points in the opening 10 game stretch. For any team playing the Leafs, success starts in the defensive zone first; the Blue Jackets will have to defend well before getting their counterattack going and cannot afford to get into a "track meet" style of game with Toronto.

The Blue Jackets and Leafs couldn't be more different in terms of how they play, but that's what often makes for an intriguing and entertaining match-up. These two clubs face each other three times this season but Fridays game is the only one at Nationwide Arena, a place where the Blue Jackets have raised their game of late after opening the season 0-2-0 on home ice.

In the middle of a four-game home stand, the Blue Jackets said this week that they've re-discovered the urgency in their game and how important points are in the grand scheme of a season. They know very well how a slow start can haunt you in April, after they missed the dance last spring by a tiebreaker to Minnesota.

With six of their next seven games at home, the Blue Jackets have an opportunity to get back into the Metropolitan Division playoff picture by the middle of November.

TONIGHT'S LINES

Here are the projected Blue Jackets lines for Friday's game...

Foligno-Anisimov-Gaborik

Jenner-Dubinsky-Atkinson

Comeau-Johansen-Umberger

Letestu-MacKenzie-Boll

Defense pairs:

Tyutin-Prout

Johnson-Savard

Murray-Wisniewski

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