|DETROIT – The Blue Jackets have played some of their best hockey this season under interim head coach Todd Richards, and perhaps the greatest test yet comes tonight against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Not only have the Red Wings won 15 consecutive games at home (a streak currently intact), they are 18-2-1 within their friendly confines this season and have turned it up another gear in the last two months. |
As usual, the Red Wings are led by one of the best all-around players in the game in Pavel Datsyuk, who even at age 33 continues to produce at a high level and dazzle with shootout moves and brilliant takeaways. He’s had an excellent career against Columbus, collecting 19-39-58 in 48 career games with a +23 rating. Riding shotgun with Datsyuk is the man they call “The Mule,” Johan Franzen. The big Swede has 18 goals on the year to lead Detroit and always finds a way to score goals at the right time. The Blue Jackets will try to use their checking line anchored by Sammy Pahlsson as often as possible against Datsyuk and Franzen, but with the Red Wings playing at home, Columbus won’t have the last line change.
The Blue Jackets’ play at even strength has been their calling card of late, and tonight they face the league’s second-best club at 5-on-5. Detroit’s even-strength goals scored for/against ratio ranks second only to the defending champion Boston Bruins, and the Red Wings’ fifth-ranked offense has clearly been dangerous on even terms this season.
Detroit and Columbus last met on Oct. 25 at Nationwide Arena, four days after the Red Wings earned a 5-2 win in the series opener in the Motor City. The Blue Jackets were seeking their first win of the season in that game, and got first career goals from both Ryan Johansen and John Moore in a 4-1 win.
Tonight’s game will be an intriguing matchup because both clubs are in markedly different positions than they were three months ago. The Blue Jackets have good memories in Joe Louis Arena, though – including an 8-2 drubbing of the Red Wings in March of 2009 and a 3-0 victory last year.
| || || |
|Nash (16) ||Franzen (18) |
|Prospal (21) ||Datsyuk (38) |
|Nash (32) ||Datsyuk (51) |
|Dorsett (109) ||Ericsson (39) |
|MacKenzie (+7) ||Franzen, White(+26) |
|Sanford (8-10-3) |
|Howard (28-10-1) |
|Sanford (2.54) ||Howard (1.98) |
|Sanford (.912) ||Howard (.926) || |
|• Rick Nash had points in three-straight games after notching an assist this past Tuesday against Edmonton. He has points in four of the last six, and has recorded 12-8-20 the last 28 games after being held 1-3-4 the previous 10 games. He leads the team in shots with 179, ranking third in the NHL. |
• Former Detroit Red Wing D Brett Lebda was signed to a one-year contract by Columbus on Thursday. He could make his Blue Jackets debut against his former team tonight. He has registered 19-53-72 with 215 penalty minutes and a +17 plus/minus rating in 367 career NHL games with the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.
• Tonight marks the third of six meetings overall and the second of three meetings at Joe Louis Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Red Wings. Columbus is 18-37-10 all-time against Detroit, including a 7-22-3 mark at Joe Louis Arena. The Blue Jackets have won three of the last six meetings after losing the previous five straight.
• Derick Brassard has goals in three of the last six games, including his seventh of the season Jan. 17 vs. Edmonton. He has points in four of the last seven games (3-2-5) and has collected 5-5-10 the last 14 games after being held to 2-3-5 the first 24 games of the season.