Game Day vs. Dallas
Second of back-to-back games vs. Dallas
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LIVE GAME CHAT WITH BOB McELLIGOTT - 6:45 P.M.
|The Blue Jackets should have a fairly good read on the Dallas Stars, seeing as these two clubs got together just a couple of days ago. Columbus coach Scott Arniel described the Stars as a hard-working, structured team that makes the opposition grind for its scoring opportunities. After the Blue Jackets scored two goals on 15 shots in a 4-2 loss at American Airlines Center, that theory seems to be relatively accurate.
Stars coach Glen Gulutzan gave a heap of ice time to his top line, centered by Mike Ribeiro on Saturday night. With the last line change on home ice, Gulutzan had Ribeiro’s line with Brenden Morrow on the ice nearly every second shift – and it was an effective strategy. Columbus’ top line was able to generate offense playing against the Stars’ checking line, but the other three Blue Jackets lines were held in check aside from Alexandre Giroux’s second-period goal.
Another answer will need to come on the business end of those scoring chances: even though the Blue Jackets registered a low number of shots on Saturday night in Dallas, a handful of those were prime opportunities to score. Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen was not under duress very often, and that is something the Blue Jackets must rectify. Arniel wants his team to work first, and then let their skill aid them in scoring goals – and he came out of Saturday’s game feeling like his team was outworked, outhit and out-chanced in defeat.
Will Gulutzan ride the hot hand with Lehtonen on Tuesday night, or will he elect to give backup Andrew Raycroft his second start of the season? The guess here is Lehtonen will get the nod at Nationwide Arena, and have another opportunity to build on his already-stellar goaltending numbers (4-0-0, 1.48 GAA, .955 SV%).
Columbus coaches and players have stressed the importance of capitalizing on special teams and creating turnovers – one item that must improve in order for the Blue Jackets to register their first victory of the season. They did, however, get their first power-play goal of the season early in the opening period in Dallas courtesy of newcomer Vinny Prospal. Prospal, 36, is tied for the team lead in points and is the Blue Jackets’ leading goal-scorer five games into the season.
Adjustments are always the talk of the “second meeting” of the season, and this is one of the rare circumstances were non-division rivals face other with less than week turnaround. The Blue Jackets fell victim to several goalmouth passes, three of which found their final destination: the waiting sticks of Stars forwards. Dallas scored a trio of goals directly in front of Steve Mason, and a large part of the struggle was tying up the other player. The other goal – and perhaps strangest – was a 65-foot shot from Sheldon Souray that looked more like a knockdown 5-iron than a hockey puck.
The Blue Jackets get the second line change on home ice this time around, and it will be intriguing to see which matchups Arniel prefers when he has the option. Sammy Pahlsson figures to get the bulk of shifts against Ribeiro’s line, and the Columbus top line could benefit from some extra room if they can be kept away from Dallas’ checking unit.
Neither Dallas nor Columbus has been a stranger to one-goal games this season. Three of the Stars’ four wins have come by a single goal margin, and the Blue Jackets have lost three one-goal decisions including a shootout loss to Colorado. The key for the Blue Jackets in this game will be to get a lead, maintain their aggressive system and pursue the puck on the forecheck for 60 minutes – not allowing Dallas to settle into its passive neutral-zone scheme.