BLUE JACKETS AT AVALANCHE
TUESDAY, 8 PM
AVALANCHE 5 | BLUE JACKETS 3
SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: Things looked good for the Blue Jackets midway through the second period when Boone Jenner gave them a 2-1 lead, but the Avalanche had an answer and did so emphatically. A turnover by the Jackets lead to Colorado's tying goal and not long after, a power play goal by Ryan O'Reilly gave Colorado its first lead of the night. That's where things stand after two periods at Pepsi Center - and the Blue Jackets have their work cut out for them with 20 minutes to play. They'll need more speed, discipline and pucks to the net (sound familiar?)...and if they get another power play opportunity, it'd be beneficial to cash in on one of their opportunities.
WATCH: Boone Jenner with some great work in front of the net, and he momentarily gave the Jackets a 2-1 lead.
FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: Not a bad road period to kick things off for the Blue Jackets, who are out-shooting the Avalanche by a 12-8 margin after 20 minutes at Pepsi Center. It's a 1-1 tie on goals by Ryan Johansen and Jan Hejda (a one-time Blue Jackets defenseman), and Johansen's team-leading 16th of the season got things started early in the first. Nick Foligno made a great play to drive the net and create a rebound off Varlamov's pad, and Johansen cleaned up the garbage in the pain to give Columbus the lead. The Avalanche responded on a harmless-looking shot from the point by Hejda that may have changed direction en route, evening things up a few minutes after Johansen's goal. The Blue Jackets are out to a solid start, but they'll need more pucks and more traffic at Varlamov in the next 40 minutes to get the desired result.
WATCH: Ryan Johansen's 16th of the season made it 1-0 Jackets early in the first period.
INSIDE EDGE: NEW YEAR'S EVE EDITION
PRE GAME AUDIO: James Wisniewski | Nick Foligno | Todd Richards
WATCH: The 2013 #CBJ Story
UPDATE (12:15 PM): As reported yesterday, the Avalanche will start Semyon Varlamov tonight against the Blue Jackets. Columbus is expected to counter with Curtis McElhinney.
UPDATE (11:55 AM): Shawn Mitchell of the Dispatch reports that Blake Comeau is not skating this morning with the Blue Jackets. We'll have an update from Todd Richards after the skate concludes.
MORNING SKATE: One final game remains on the 2013 calendar, and it happens to be the first game of a four-game trip out west for the Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets are scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. (local time) morning skate at the Pepsi Center in Denver, and we'll have complete coverage for you right here at Game Day Central all afternoon. Also, look for lineup changes, thoughts on the match-up against the Avalanche, storylines from the other side and an interview with coach Todd Richards. Stay tuned to this page for the latest!
The Blue Jackets are getting healthy, and it feels excellent to type those words.
Nathan Horton and Sergei Bobrovsky both practiced on Monday afternoon at Nationwide Arena and are traveling with the team on this four-game road trip out west. When (and if) they play on the trip remains to be seen, but the fact that they're traveling is a great sign.
Columbus recalled Ryan Craig from Springfield in advance of the trip, and he will serve as the team's extra forward. He was already with the team earlier this week as Derek MacKenzie's status was uncertain for Sunday's game against Pittsburgh, but MacKenzie was able to suit up.
Look for Curtis McElhinney to make the start in goal for Columbus. He will be opposed by Semyon Varlamov for coach Patrick Roy and the Avalanche.
These two teams got to know each other well over the last decade-plus, as the Blue Jackets made two annual trips to Denver before moving to the Eastern Conference.
Columbus visited Colorado twice a year ago, dropping the first meeting at Pepsi Center (a 4-0 loss) that jolted the Blue Jackets back to reality after a strong start to the season. Their next engagement was in early March at Nationwide Arena
, a 1-1 game through regulation time before Artem Anisimov
ended things in sudden death; that game was the second in Columbus' 19-5-5 run down the stretch that nearly garnered a playoff spot, but that wasn't even their most dramatic win in the season series.
Fast forward to mid-April and the Blue Jackets' western trip at the end of the season. They were locked in a 2-2 tie with the Avalanche late into the third period when, frankly, all hell broke loose at the Pepsi Center. Colorado's Stefan Elliot ripped a shot from the point that was tipped in by Jamie McGinn, giving the Avalanche a 3-2 lead with 2:02 to play.
On the next shift, RJ Umberger
took an alley-oop pass from Ryan Johansen
and slid a backhander through pads of J-S Giguere, tying things up 3-3 in a wild sequence of events. And in overtime, it was Umberger and Foligno on a 2-on-1 that was finished off by Foligno, capping off one of the more improbably Jackets victories of their final run.
But now, the slate is wiped clean and there are two points on the line that both teams desperately want.
The Avalanche, much like the Blue Jackets, are hanging in the playoff race despite registering 50 points in their first 38 games. They are three points clear of the Phoenix Coyotes (the Blue Jackets' next opponent on Thursday night) in the Western Conference and are trying to chase down the division-leading Chicago Blackhawks.
Columbus enters the night two points back of third place in the Metropolitan Division.
AT PHOENIX COYOTES
THURSDAY, 9 P.M.