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GAME DAY: at Colorado

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

  Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Colorado Avalanche
RECORDS - CBJ: 18-38-7 (Road: 7-20-4), COL: 33-27-4 (Home: 18-13-1)
WHEN: Mar. 1, 2012 - 9 p.m.   |   WHERE: Pepsi Center

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GAME DAY ON THE ROAD presented by:



A clear indication of the competitive balance in the Western Conference lies in the last week for the Colorado Avalanche. They occupied eighth place in the playoff seeding after a 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets last weekend, and before the following week was halfway done, Colorado was on the outside looking in yet again. The Avalanche have reeled off four consecutive victories heading into tonight’s game against the Blue Jackets, but are still in ninth place.

The only thing currently separating head coach Joe Sacco’s club from a playoff spot is its 26 ROW (regulation and overtime wins), which are the first tiebreaker for seeding purposes. The Dallas Stars hold that edge over Colorado with 29 ROW to their credit with 19 games to be played. Columbus hosted the Avalanche at Nationwide Arena less than a week ago, and the visitors broke away with three goals in the third period for a 5-0 win.

Colorado GM Greg Sherman was fairly active at the NHL trade deadline, acquiring forward Jamie McGinn from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for two pending free agents – Daniel Winnik (UFA) and T.J. Galiardi (RFA). The biggest acquisition for the Avalanche appears to be Steve Downie, who has seven points (two goals, five assists) since coming over from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 24. The 24-year-old made his Avalanche debut last week vs. the Blue Jackets and picked up a goal and an assist.

Many GMs and coaches believe that a goaltending tandem is the best way to go for playoff success, and the Avalanche are getting that right now. Semyon Varlamov has been red-hot for Colorado in the last few weeks, but the wily veteran J.S. Giguere has pushed his counterpart throughout the season and only three victories separate them.

Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards said yesterday that Steve Mason will start in goal for Columbus this evening.

Nash (22) Landeskog (18)
Prospal (28) O'Reilly (34)
Nash (44) O'Reilly (50)
Dorsett (179) McLeod (136)
MacKenzie (+1) Landeskog (+22)
Sanford (10-15-4)
Varlamov (18-18-2)
Sanford (2.66) Giguere (2.16)
Sanford (.911) Giguere (.922)
• Columbus has power play goals in nine of the last 12 games after going 1-for-5 on the power play Feb. 28 vs. Detroit. The club is 13-for-50 (26.0 percent) the last 12 games after going 4-for-42 (9.5 percent) the previous 17 games.

•The Blue Jackets are in the midst of playing three of four on the road with tonight’s marking the second of the three road games. Columbus visited Pittsburgh on Sunday, hosted Detroit on Tuesday and will conclude the stretch with a game at Phoenix on Saturday. The club has posted a 5-6-1 mark the last 12 games after going winless its previous six games.

Rick Nash has goals in four of the last five games after scoring his 22nd of the season Tuesday against Detroit. He had been held to one goal the previous 10 games. He also has scored 12 goals the last 27 games after being held to six goals the previous 24 games. He has points in nine of the last 12 games (5-6-11), while collecting 9-8-17 the previous 24 games. He leads the team in shots with 239, ranking third in the NHL.

•Tonight marks the third of four meetings overall and first of two at Pepsi Center this season between the Blue Jackets and Avalanche. Columbus is 9-29-4 all-time against Colorado, including a 3-15-2 mark at Pepsi Center.


C - #37
  16 GOALS

• O’Reilly is one of the more underrated young scorers in the NHL, or perhaps the most impactful player you’ve never heard of. The Avalanche brought him into the league as an 18-year-old and thrust him into a shutdown-center role, but he answered the bell and has continued to expand his game. Now 21, he’s the team’s leading scorer by 10 points.

D Radek Martinek (concussion); out for the season
LW Kristian Huselius (lower body); indefinitely
D Marc Methot (jaw); indefinitely
RW Jared Boll (foot); week-to-week

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