IN GAME UPDATES
SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: Now, it shouldn't take a 3-0 deficit to get things started, but that was a much better period by the Blue Jackets and a good response after a sloppy shorthanded goal from Andrei Markov. They tightened things up big-time - especially in front of their net - and finished the chances they created in front of Carey Price. A pair of firsts have the Blue Jackets right back in the game: Boone Jenner's first NHL goal, a hard-working rebound put-back on the power play, got the Jackets on the board and a few minutes later, Ryan Johansen finished off a 2-on-1 with a glove-side rocket that Price could only wave at. Now that things have started to tilt back into their favor, the Blue Jackets can ill afford to relent. The third period is all about who pushes forward harder, and the Blue Jackets need to make sure they carry the end of that second frame into the final one.
FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: Sluggish start for the Blue Jackets, who find themselves down 2-0 after 20 minutes at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens set the tone right from the opening face-off and have enjoyed several odd-man rushes, and the Blue Jackets weren't able to match their pace in the first 12-plus minutes of the game. Shots in the first period were 14-11 in favor of Montreal and if not for a handful of spectacular stops by Sergei Bobrovsky, this game could be out of hand. Objective for the second period: fewer "one and done" stops in the offensive zone and get more pucks to the net with bodies in front of Price.
MORNING SKATE REPORT
UPDATE (6:05 PM): Jeff Rimer tells us that Boone Jenner, who played alongside Dubinsky during camp and the preseason, will take Gaborik's spot on the Jackets' No. 1 line tonight.
UPDATE (3:25 PM): According to Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette, the Canadiens will provide a further update on Pacioretty closer to game time. Safe to say he will not play tonight against the Blue Jackets.
UPDATE (2:20 PM): One of the things Richards and the Blue Jackets are trying to do is get Artem Anisimov (one point in five games) going on the scoresheet. He's been tried in some different line combinations and he'll get his first look on left wing tonight, and will open the game on the left side of Ryan Johansen and RJ Umberger. That's three big bodies on one unit, and Richards is hoping that it sparks not just Anisimov but some other trios who need to produce more offensively.
Richards: "We're trying to get (Anisimov) going and trying to get opportunities for some other people to create some offense. Just trying some different things. We have to make it more difficult on goalies; sometimes we're looking for an extra pass or that pretty play. We have to get in the mentality of putting pucks to the net."
UPDATE (1:15 PM): Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards met with the media a short while ago. Here are his pre-game updates before tonight's game...
- It's no secret that the Jackets need to create more offense and especially so at even strength. Columbus has just seven 5-on-5 goals in five games and is going up against a red-hot Carey Price tonight. Richards: "We have to get to the front of the net. Sometimes we're there but we're conveniently out of the way. Price is on top of his game right now, and if we're allowing him clear sight lines to the puck, we're going to have the same result. Once we get there, we have to really dig in and battle."
- Columbus is going with the same lineup but different combinations (as detailed below) as used Tuesday in Detroit. That means Dalton Prout is a scratch and the third pairing remains Nikitin-Savard. Richards said the decisions might appear difficult, but really, that's not the case: "It's not tough after last game. It was really easy, based on how the guys played. The decisions are relatively easy; if a guy's not going, that's a good thing about having depth at the blue line position. We have seven quality guys here right and quality defensemen in Springfield. If you're struggling a little bit, you're going to have to step aside and someone's going to get an opportunity."
- Richards said the coaching staff felt Tuesday's 2-1 loss in Detroit was "one of (their) best 60-minute games of the year." If you recall, they fired 37 shots on goal and carried long stretches of play in the Red Wings zone.
UPDATE (11:40 AM): From our team on-site at the Bell Centre, the Jackets appear to be making some minor tweaks to the line combinations. Here's how they are skating this morning: Atkinson-Dubinsky-Gaborik, Anisimov-Johansen-Umberger, Jenner-Letestu-Comeau, Craig-MacKenzie-Boll.
UPDATE (11:25 AM): We'll know of any changes to the Blue Jackets' lines and defense pairs for tonight's game against the Canadiens in just a few minutes. Sergei Bobrovsky starts in goal opposite of Carey Price.
UPDATE (11:15 AM): The Blue Jackets are on the ice in Montreal! Bob McElligott went all techy on us and caught some footage...
UPDATE (10:00 AM): The Blue Jackets won't be on the ice for about 90 minutes or so, but the Canadiens are slated for a pre-game skate in about a half hour. Canadiens coach Michel Therrien is expected to give an update on the status of forward Max Pacioretty, who left Montreal's last game with a lower-body injury and did not return.
Montreal announced earlier this week that defenseman Davis Drewiske had shoulder surgery and will miss 5-6 months of time. Along with offseason signing Douglas Murray, the Canadiens will be down two defensemen tonight against the Blue Jackets.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards spoke to the media after an optional Wednesday practice at the Bell Centre, and he said not to expect any changes from the lineup used Tuesday in Detroit. If that holds true, Dalton Prout remains a healthy scratch on defense and Nick Foligno remains out due to personal reasons.
It's hard to argue with the results on the back end and in particular the Nikitin-Savard pairing, which has been a plus unit for the majority of the season and both guys have done well in moving the puck quickly in transition. Also, the strong play of rookie defenseman Ryan Murray has made it hard to move him around the lineup, as he and James Wisniewski have formed a strong partnership on the blue line.
The Blue Jackets are scheduled for an 11:30AM morning skate at the Bell Centre. Stay tuned right here for the latest updates throughout the day.
Tonight's expected lines and pairs for the Blue Jackets...
After a day of practice on Wednesday and some time to recover from Tuesday's 2-1 loss in Detroit, the Blue Jackets are eager to get right back at it on Thursday in Montreal. It's the second game of a three-game road trip that will take the Blue Jackets to the nation's capital on Saturday before returning home for four straight games beginning Sunday.
Columbus pumped 37 shots at Red Wings goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, scoring one goal off the stick of Cam Atkinson but creating countless opportunities. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards liked the solid team game the Blue Jackets played on Tuesday, and said he hopes to see more of the same as this road trip continues north of the border. Don't expect any changes to the lineup for Thursday's game, which means Prout is likely to be scratched for a second consecutive game.
It should be a quality goaltending match-up at the Bell Centre between two of the league's best, with Carey Price going toe-to-toe against Sergei Bobrovsky.
The Canadiens are on a roll, having won three straight games and enter tonight's game with a 4-2-0 record. Leading the way has been Price, the No. 1 goaltender in Montreal and a guy who's playing not just for his team but also a potential spot on the Canadian Olympic roster. Montreal's recent road swing through western Canada took the club through Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg, and three convincing decisions later, the Canadiens returns to La Belle Province as one of the NHL's hottest teams.
Price has stopped 101 of the last 103 pucks directed his way - including 75 of 76 in his two most recent outings - and is giving coach Michel Therrien's club a fighting chance to win every single night. Special teams, something the Canadiens struggled with last season, have been in their favor early on and the power play is clicking at a rate of nearly 27 percent.
They're creating chances with better puck movement, a renewed willingness to shoot the puck from all angles, and a great transition game led by Norris Trophy winner PK Subban.
The key to tonight's game for the Blue Jackets is a familiar one: they have to find a way - whatever it may be - to convert on their chances and especially so at even strength. Through five games, Columbus has scored just seven 5-on-5 goals and despite nearly 40 shots on Tuesday night in Detroit, the Blue Jackets' only breakthrough was an end-to-end power play goal (unassisted) from Atkinson in the second period.
Whether it's getting to the net, not passing up a chance to shoot the puck or a number of other factors, the Blue Jackets simply have to pick it up offensively if they're going to come back home this weekend with some points.
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