BLUE JACKETS (20-16-7) AT DUCKS (27-10-5)
HONDA CENTER | ANAHEIM, CALIF.
10 P.M. WEDNESDAY
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM
As emotional and exciting as Monday night's overtime win was, the biggest challenge in a jam-packed playoff race is to manage the highs just as you would the lows. The next game is always the most important, and for the Blue Jackets, they have to quickly forget their thrilling victory in Denver and move on to a back-to-back set in southern California that begins Wednesday night in Anaheim.
With five games left to play, it's difficult to gauge exactly what the Blue Jackets need to accumulate in that stretch to secure a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs - but the players and coaches will say it's all about doing whatever they can to win each game. Enterting their game against Anaheim, the Jackets have won four consecutive games for the second time this season and look to equal their longest win streak of the season at the Honda Center.
The two teams have split the season series so far and each has won on home ice: the Ducks won 3-2 back on Feb. 18 in a game where (surprise) Sergei Bobrovsky was very strong between the pipes, but the Blue Jackets could not get a third puck in the Ducks' net. Fast forward to Mar. 31 at Nationwide Arena and it featured one of the more exciting finishes of the season: Columbus took a 1-0 lead in the second period but talented rookie Emerson Etem tied the game in the third to force overtime. Mark Letestu was the recipient of a sweet pass across the zone from Nikita Nikitin, and he beat Jonas Hiller blocker-side for an OT win that vaulted the Jackets into eighth place in the West.
And though the Ducks are sitting pretty atop the Pacific Division and in the conference's second seed, they've got a lot to play for. They've been a tad inconsistent in going 5-4-1 over their past 10 games but have been a tough draw on home ice (16-6-0 on the season), making it difficult for opponents to pick up points in this playoff chase. Anaheim has scored just 25 goals in a recent 5-7-1 stretch that has suddenly seen the Los Angeles Kings creep into the division race.
The Blue Jackets have played the Ducks well in Anaheim over the years but will need a better start than they've received in the two previous games on this road trip. Slow starts in Minnesota and Colorado fortunately did not cost them points, but against a potent offensive club like the Ducks, having everyone on board and ready to go from the opening face-off is paramount.
No surprise here, but Bobrovsky will be back between the pipes in Anaheim and he's likely to face Hiller, who has played well for the Ducks of late.
- Wednesday's game is the third of a six-game road trip for the Blue Jackets, who return home for the regular-season finale on Apr. 27 vs. Nashville. After facing the Ducks, Columbus heads up to face Los Angeles on Thursday before traveling north to San Jose, where they will play the red-hot Sharks on Sunday evening.
- Bobrovsky earned his 17th win of the season on Monday night, hours after being named the NHL's No. 1 star of the week ending Apr. 14. He's been in net for each of the Jackets' four straight wins and boasted a 0.97 goals-against average during a perfect 3-0-0 week that led to the league honor.
- The latest update on Artem Anisimov: he is still with the Blue Jackets but is not expected to play Wednesday or Thursday. No further updates on his status were immediately available, and he remains listed as "day-to-day" with an upper body injury suffered Saturday night in Minnesota.
- Anaheim has dropped five of eight at home since winning a franchise-best 13 straight there Jan. 26-March 20. The Ducks also signed Yale forward Antoine Laganiere to an entry-level deal on Tuesday, three days after he won the NCAA Frozen Four title in Pittsburgh. ANDREW COGLIANO
CENTER | #7
2012-13 STATS: 12-10-22, 42 GP
Cogliano is one of the more unheralded players in the Ducks' stellar season, quietly putting up a 20-plus point campaign and proving to be more than a checking center since being traded to Anaheim. He's been a great fit in Bruce Boudreau's structure, too, which emphasizes an up-tempo attack and aggressive pursuit of the puck. One of the league's fastest players, Cogliano has slotted just about everywhere in the Ducks lineup this season but has contributed valuable minutes wherever he has played.
Artem Anisimov (upper body), day-to-day; Adrian Aucoin (undisclosed), day-to-day; Tim Erixon (upper body), probable
Cam Fowler (upper body), out; Luca Sbisa, out; Nick Bonino (lower body), out