SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: A much better road period from the Blue Jackets, who were faster on the puck but are playing with only five defensemen at the moment. Ryan Murray's lower body injury, suffered late in the first period, will have him out for the remainder of the game. The Blue Jackets spent more time on the attack in the middle frame and got pucks on James Reimer, who has been strong for Toronto despite a pair of goals against. Dalton Prout's first goal of the season - a slap shot through traffic - gave Columbus a 1-0 lead and minutes later, it was Artem Anisimov burying a beautiful slap-pass from Nikita Nikitin at the back post. Bobrovsky has kept the Jackets on solid footing in goal, and to keep doing what they're doing, the Jackets need to stay out of the box in the third period.
FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: The Blue Jackets and Leafs don't play mirroring styles, but there are some similarities and one of them is speed. Both teams like to get up the ice and play fast, but the Leafs are more of a "rush" team that wants to move the puck quickly in transition. You saw that in the first period as the Leafs drew the Jackets into a couple of penalties and used their skating game to get some chances off the rush, but for the most part, Columbus defended well and maintained its composure arond Bobrovsky. Shots were 12-8 favoring the Leafs in the opening period and they definitely had the better opportunities, so the Blue Jackets are probably going to talk about spending more time in the offensive zone over these next 40 minutes.
UPDATE (12:05 PM): Sergei Bobrovsky was first off the ice after the Jackets' morning skate and he's slated to start tonight against the Leafs.
UPDATE (12:00 PM): One note from Aaron Portzline, who reports that RJ Umberger left the morning skate early. He injured a finger in Saturday's win over Florida but is expected to play tonight.
UPDATE (11:55 AM): Our crew in Toronto reports the same lines and pairs being used by the Blue Jackets. Expect the same lineup tonight that they used Saturday against the Panthers.
MORNING SKATE: The Blue Jackets are in Toronto and set for the first of back-to-back games on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre. The Leafs are hot, the Jackets want to continue their winning ways and it should be a fun and entertaining hockey game as the playoff race heats up. As always, we'll have game day coverage for you right here at Game Day Central. Also, look for lineup changes, thoughts on the match-up against the Leafs, storylines from the other side and an interview with coach Todd Richards. Stay tuned to this page for the latest!
The Blue Jackets held an optional practice on Sunday afternoon before departing for Toronto, and they're not anticipating any lineup changes when they face the Leafs on Monday night. Richards did update the status of Jared Boll, saying he's about 2-3 weeks away from returning from ankle surgery.
Look for Sergei Bobrovsky to start in goal, while the Leafs are expected to go with Jonathan Bernier.
The Blue Jackets have enjoyed relative success against Toronto this season, winning the first two match-ups in the season series and outscoring the Leafs by an 11-2 margin. Both games have been entertaining in their own way, but the first one (Oct. 25 at Nationwide Arena) provided plenty of drama and featured a wild finish.
A shorthanded goal in the third period from Brandon Dubinsky was the difference-maker, extending the Jackets' lead just after the Leafs threatened on the power play at the other end. The second meeting was all Columbus, a 6-0 win in late November at Air Canada Centre that featured two goals from Ryan Johansen and a solid performance from Bobrovsky between the pipes.
Much like they were on Saturday against Florida, the Blue Jackets' special teams were very good in both meetings with Toronto. They'll need more of what they got over the weekend, as the Leafs are red-hot on home ice having won seven consecutive games at the place they call the ACC.
Jonathan Bernier is playing well, Phil Kessel is smokin' hot in the goal-scoring department and the Leafs' power play is something you don't want to face very often. They're coming off a disappointing overtime loss in Montreal two nights ago, a game they controlled for long stretches, and have gotten back to an uptempo, potent attacking-style game that seems to be their bread-and-butter.
The key for the Blue Jackets? It's cliche - ok, very cliche - but they have to stick with their game plan. If this turns into a game of trading chances, it favors the Maple Leafs. But if Columbus can slow the game down a bit and grind away in the offensive zone, they'll generate their share of chances.
VS. DALLAS STARS
TUESDAY, 7 P.M.
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