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Jackets Host Wild Tonight

Saturday, 11.25.2006 / 12:00 AM ET / News
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Jackets Host Wild Tonight
(AP)-A loss in his debut as Columbus Blue Jackets coach didn't bother Ken Hitchcock too much, or even his players.

The crowd might not react as kindly to one on Saturday.

Hitchcock hopes another solid effort leads to a win in his first home game with Columbus, which is trying to avoid recording the longest losing streak in franchise history in a matchup with the Minnesota Wild.

Following one day of practice with his new team, Hitchcock led the Blue Jackets (5-14-2) into Philadelphia to face the club that fired him only one month earlier and came away with a 3-2 loss.

"It felt good to go on the bench. It felt good to coach the game. It felt good to try to help the team win," Hitchcock said. "I'm excited to get back and teach again."

Though the Blue Jackets tied a club record with their eighth straight loss, goaltender Pascal Leclaire was among the players to believe Hitchcock's arrival already has benefitted the team.

"It's just one day so far, but he's brought a lot of good stuff," Leclaire said. "It's going to be good. I think everybody is excited working with him."

The fans at Nationwide Arena might not be so forgiving. They have not seen a playoff game in the Blue Jackets' five-plus seasons of existence, and haven't even seen a win at home since the team beat Calgary 5-4 in a shootout on Nov. 3.

Columbus has since been outscored 19-9 in losing all five of its home games. The team hasn't won in any arena since a 4-2 victory at St. Louis on Nov. 9, and its 12 points are the fewest in the NHL.

Hitchcock saw some positive signs from Friday's loss, as Columbus outshot the Flyers 41-22 and erased a pair of one-goal deficits.

"We've got a big challenge to build on this for tomorrow," he said, "but to take from where we were two days ago to play like this, not just from the effort, we got a pretty good hockey club. We deserved a better fate."

Minnesota (13-8-1) is coming off a significantly better effort, ending a three-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory over Phoenix on Friday.

It's uncertain if Wild coach Jacques Lemaire will give goalie Niklas Backstrom a third straight start after the rookie recorded his first NHL shutout. Starter Manny Fernandez has been struggling, going 1-5-0 with a 4.18 goals-against average in his past eight starts.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Branko Radivojevic scored power-play goals Friday for the Wild, who are among the league leaders with a 21.5-percent success rate with the man advantage.

"There's only so many power plays and penalty kills that you have to be at the top of the league if you plan on making the playoffs," said Mark Parrish, who had an even-strength goal after going pointless during Minnesota's three-game skid.

That stretch saw the Wild get outscored 6-0 in the first period, but they had the only goal of that period on Friday.

Minnesota continues to fight through injuries. While Marian Gaborik has missed the past 15 games with a groin injury, Pavol Demitra (head) and Wes Walz (hip) have sat out the last two.

As always, Huntington Green Seats will be available for tonight's game and every game during the 2006-07 season. The Huntington Green Seats are 250 seats that are priced at $10 for every home game this season and are available only at the Nationwide Arena Ticket Office, two hours prior to game time. For tonight's game each person may purchase a maximum of four seats.

Click here to purchase tickets now.

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