|CBJ||2||2||2||(0 - 0)||6|
|TOR||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
BLUE JACKETS (8-12-3) at MAPLE LEAFS (14-8-1)
TV: FS-O, SNET-O
Last 10: Columbus 3-4-3; Toronto 5-4-1
Season series: This is the second of three meetings between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs. Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno each had a goal and an assist to power the Blue Jackets to a 5-2 home win against the Maple Leafs on Oct. 25.
Big story: The Blue Jackets have an almost identical record to the 7-12-4 mark they posted through 23 games last season, when they proceeded to nearly make the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a second-half tear. On the plus side, this is an 82-game season, giving them far more time to turn things around. They're also no longer in the Western Conference, where their poor start would have all but buried them. On the other hand, Sergei Bobrovsky (2.95 goals-against average, .904 save percentage) needs to rediscover something close to his Vezina Trophy-winning form in a hurry.
The Blue Jackets held a 90-minute practice at MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke yesterday (practice rink of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies) and got some good news on the injury front. James Wisniewski (illness) and Dalton Prout (on IR) returned to practice with the team, and one more, Nathan Horton took part in his first full-team practice with the Blue Jackets. Horton was wearing a red no-contact sweater during the skate and there’s no timetable for his return, but nonetheless, it was a positive sign to see No. 8 taking part in practice with his teammates.
Because Prout is still on injured reserve, the Blue Jackets would have to activate him and make a scratch of another defenseman on the roster. With Wisniewski out of Friday’s game in Vancouver, Tim Erixon slotted into his place and played well despite Columbus’ 6-2 loss.
Look for Sergei Bobrovsky to get back between the pipes on Monday night against the Maple Leafs. He was a 5-2 winner over Toronto at Nationwide Arena back on Oct. 25, and like his teammates, Bobrovsky will be seeking a rebound performance after Friday’s defeat in Vancouver.
The last time the Blue Jackets played the Maple Leafs, it was on home ice and Columbus could dictate the tempo and the match ups. This time around, they’ll have to play a slightly different game - but they can ill afford to play a run-and-gun game as the Leafs prefer to do.
With the last line change, look for Leafs coach Randy Carlyle (one of the most dedicated line-matchers in the NHL) to get his top players in mis-match situations with the Blue Jackets as often as possible. His commitment to doing so - which has produced success for his top players throughout his coaching career (see: Anaheim) - allows the Leafs to get out in transition and use their speed to back off the opposition’s defense.
How do the Blue Jackets counter that? It goes back to the old adage of “managing the puck,” a phrase the Jackets and their head coach have said often in recent weeks. The key, as it often is, will be to get the puck in deep behind the Toronto defense and play the game below the hashmarks; logic says that if the Blue Jackets have the puck, it will be difficult for the Leafs to create scoring chances. Don’t beat yourself, take care of the puck, and don’t take undisciplined penalties.
Easier said than done, of course, but at the very least, the Blue Jackets have something to work with from their previous victory over the Maple Leafs.
In this final game of a five-game Canadian road trip that began with a 4-1 win in Ottawa last weekend and a 2-1 overtime in Calgary on Wednesday - but muddled by bad losses in Edmonton and Vancouver - the Blue Jackets have a chance to post a 3-2-0 record on a difficult trip before heading home for a stretch that includes a bulk of games at Nationwide Arena. During that time, they could possibly get some help at forward with injured players (Brandon Dubinsky) possibly returning, with Nathan Horton sometime in the coming month or so.
Horton took part in his first full-team skate with the Blue Jackets on Sunday in Toronto, but there has been no update or timetable provided for a return to game action.
vs. NASHVILLE PREDATORS
WEDNESDAY, 7 PM
|J. van Riemsdyk||22||9||7||16||+2||20||3||0|