Wild, Blue Jackets jockey for positioning in West
WILD (15-14-3) at BLUE JACKETS (14-12-6)
Last 10 --
Minnesota 7-2-1; Columbus 2-5-3
Season series --
First meeting between the two teams since opening night, a 2-1 Blue Jackets win before a sold-out Nationwide Arena crowd. Rostislav Klesla
scored midway through the third period to break a 1-all tie and Steve Mason
held off a 5-on-3 onslaught in the final minute to protect the win.
Big story --
They're only a point apart in the conference standings, but took different routes to get there. The Wild remain one of the hottest teams in the NHL, winning seven of nine and three of five on the road. The Jackets, on the other hand, have managed to tread water despite losing eight of 10. Both are stuck in the Western Conference logjam and could use the points.
Despite a loss in Vancouver Saturday, the Wild returned from their five-game road trip in good spirits. They very nearly came all the way back from an erratic first period by goalie Josh Harding, firing 40 shots at Roberto Luongo but falling short 4-3.
"Overall, it was a pretty good trip. We wanted it to be a great trip. Tonight's disappointing, but everyone battled," Martin Havlat told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The one home game is just a stopover as the Wild make a side trip to Canada to face the Senators and Canadiens, then come home for two against division rivals Colorado and Edmonton, and one with St. Louis.
Blue Jackets --
Since the two teams joined the NHL, the Predators have had the upper hand on the Blue Jackets, going 8-2-2 in Nationwide Arena to go with a 13-game winning streak against them at home.
Monday night was no different as longtime nemesis Steve Sullivan turned in his seventh career hat trick in a crushing 5-3 win for the Preds.
"We were slow with the puck and it's been like that for a while," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We made a lot of puck errors in our own end. Today was a microcosm of the season, to be honest with you. We create enough chances to score every night (but) it doesn't matter unless you are good from the red line back."
Who's hot --
Havlat has been turning it up over the last couple of games for the Wild. He had a goal and two assists in the Vancouver loss to go with a helper and the game-winning goal at Calgary, giving him a total of five points over the two games, which, coincidentally, are the last five goals Minnesota has scored overall.
Injury report --
Wild forward Andrew Ebbett sustained a concussion against Phoenix last week and has been placed on IR, joining the list of concussion victims that includes Petr Sykora, Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Owen Nolan (leg) remains questionable for Tuesday.
Klesla is expected to miss another month with a torn groin while Jackets forward Derek Dorsett
will also be out that long after breaking his hand.
Stat pack --
The Jackets have a strong 11-4-1 record versus the Wild at home but the tables turn when they go to Minnesota, where they're 4-9-3. Eighteen of the 32 meetings between them over the years have been decided by one goal or less. Columbus' power play remains strong at a third-in-the-League 23.1 percent.
Puck drop --
A nice recovery from a 3-9-0 start isn't enough for the Wild to lock in a playoff spot, while Columbus fans wait for the mid-season surge that got their team in the playoffs last year.