BLUE JACKETS (2-2-0) at RED WINGS (4-2-0)
TV: FS-O, FS-D
Season series: First of three meetings this season between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings. They won’t face each other again until March 11 at Nationwide Arena. Columbus went 4-0-1 against Detroit last season.
The Blue Jackets had four regular forwards missing from their Monday practice at Nationwide Arena, but it doesn't look as if they will be shorthanded tonight in Detroit.
Matt Calvert, Nick Foligno, Marian Gaborik and Blake Comeau were absent but all but Calvert are expected to play against the Red Wings, according to coach Todd Richards. Calvert, still bothered by a nagging lower-body injury, is not going to travel with the Blue Jackets on their three-game trip and will be re-evaluated by team doctors at some point this week.
Gaborik (flu) and Foligno (birth of his daughter) are slated to arrive in Detroit prior to the team's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena, while Comeau made the trip with the club.
On defense, Richards alluded to another change coming on Tuesday. He said he's looking to get Nikita Nikitin back in the mix against Detroit, which means another defenseman is likely to be a healthy scratch. We won't know exactly who sits until after the morning skate.
As you'd expect, Sergei Bobrovsky starts in goal.
Another stern test is on tap for the Blue Jackets, who play their fourth of six straight games against Eastern Conference opponents. Coming off a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday, the Blue Jackets weren't displeased with their effort and execution (save for a couple of mistakes) but want to create more offense moving forward. They didn't generate a ton of quality chances in the first 20-plus minutes against Boston, but that improved as the game progressed.
The Red Wings have been playing well and have won four of their first six games, including back-to-back wins against Philadelphia and Boston in their last two outings. Detroit overhwelmed the Flyers at times and their top six has been causing all sorts of trouble for opponents, with Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss teaming up to form a formidable second unit behind Zetterberg and Datsyuk.
Opposing teams have a lot more to worry about now and the Detroit power play has been potent, as well, forcing teams to play a near-perfect game against them to have a chance.
Despite their success against the Red Wings last season, the Blue Jackets know that things have changed and they're facing a different team this time around. Brandon Dubinsky spoke Monday about the keys to success against Detroit: playing their top players hard, keeping the puck in front of you, and making the Red Wings skate the length of the ice to create offense.
So far this season, the Blue Jackets have had the puck a lot and have fared relatively well in the face-off circle, but as mentioned above, one thing they're targeting is creating more legitimate scoring chances. They want to get to the front of the net more and create more traffic, spend more time in the "greasy areas" as Dubinsky called them, and chip in a few dirty goals to get things going.
UPDATE: Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard (hand) told Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press that he is doubtful to play against the Blue Jackets.
WHAT'S ON TAP?
AT MONTREAL CANADIENS
THURSDAY, 7:30 P.M.
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