BLUE JACKETS AT DEVILS
THURSDAY, 7 PM
BLUE JACKETS 2 | DEVILS 1 (SO)
WATCH: Cam Atkinson ends this one in the shootout, a 2-1 final in New Jersey!
SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: Through 40 minutes, the Blue Jackets have done exactly what they set out to do - the only thing missing is a wider margin. They've created plenty of chances and have been very good 5-on-5, only giving the Devils one power play opportunity so far tonight. Anisimov's goal remains the only tally in the hockey game to this point but it's not for a lack of opportunities. The Blue Jackets' puck support was again good in the middle frame and they've played a pretty clean game in front of Curtis McElhinney, giving him clear sight lines to the puck and the forwards have also done well to track back in the neutral zone. The message at this point is pretty clear: keep doing what you're doing and stick to the structure. They've done a nice job through two periods.
FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: It would be difficult to ask for a more solid road period if you're Todd Richards and the Blue Jackets, who were pretty stingy in the opening period and didn't give the Devils much room to work with. Artem Anisimov's 11th goal of the season - a persistent play around the net mouth - gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead midway through the first period and honestly, it could have been 2-0 or 3-0 if not for Martin Brodeur. The wily veteran made a handful of top-notch stops for the Devils and kept this a one-goal game, but New Jersey only put five shots on Curtis McElhinney in that period. The Blue Jackets' puck support and back pressure has to continue as it was in the first period, as it really disrupted the Devils' ability to get anything going off the rush.
WATCH: Artem Anisimov's 11th goal of the season gives the Jackets a 1-0 lead in the first period!
WATCH: Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards meets with the media prior to tonight's game.
WATCH: Mark Letestu talks about facing the Devils in their building tonight.
WATCH: Blake Comeau chats with Bob McElligott about tonight's divisional match-up against the Devils.
PRE GAME AUDIO: Mark Letestu | Blake Comeau | Todd Richards | Peter DeBoer
#CBJ SOCIAL CONTEST! We're giving away some pairs of tickets to watch the Blue Jackets take on the Penguins on Sunday afternoon...want to win 'em? (Of course you do) Here's what you have to do...
Answer the following question, tweet us at @BlueJacketsNHL using #CBJ in your reply and you're automatically entered! Good luck with today's trivia:
Q: In December of 2005, the Blue Jackets beat the Devils in a dramatic OT finish at Nationwide Arena. Which player scored the GWG in that game?
UPDATE (12:00 PM): Tonight's Blue Jackets lineup against the Devils...
Dubinsky - Anisimov - Atkinson
Foligno - Johansen - Umberger
Comeau - MacKenzie - Skille
Jenner - Letestu - Tropp
Tyutin - Johnson
Murray - Wisniewski
Nikitin - Savard
Starting goalie: Curtis McElhinney
UPDATE (11:05 AM): It appears as though Devils forward Ryane Clowe will return to the lineup tonight. He skated on the fourth line during line rushes this morning and should make his return from a concussion.
UPDATE (10:50 AM): Devils goalie Martin Brodeur - one of two living legends on their roster - was first off the ice this morning and is expected to start tonight's game against the Blue Jackets.
MORNING SKATE: Everyone rested and recovered from that holiday break? The post-Christmas schedule kicks off with a Metro Division game against the New Jersey Devils on Friday night in Newark, and just like Monday, the two points up for grabs are huge in the playoff picture. The Blue Jackets are scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. morning skate at the Prudential Center, and we'll have complete coverage for you right here at Game Day Central. Also, look for lineup changes, thoughts on the match-up against the Devils, storylines from the other side and an interview with coach Todd Richards. Stay tuned to this page for the latest!
The Blue Jackets seemed to find a really balanced combination on Monday night in Carolina, and assuming everyone's healthy (we'll find out Friday morning post-morning skate), don't expect many changes in New Jersey.
Richards got a solid effort in the third period from his group against the Hurricanes and with both Derek MacKenzie and Jack Skille back in the lineup, he was able to assemble four lines with scoring ability and all four played a big part in the Blue Jackets' thrilling come-from-behind victory. Those line combinations should remain intact when they meet the Devils in Newark on Friday night, but the big question lies between the pipes.
Do the Blue Jackets go back to Mike McKenna, who was very good in Raleigh (and did so on a moment's notice) or, if Curtis McElhinney is healthy, does he get the net? We'll find out after Friday's morning skate.
The third of four meetings this season between the Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils
has quite a bit riding on it.
Columbus took the previous two games against New Jersey - both of which were played at Nationwide Arena
- but Friday's game at Prudential Center figures to be yet another in a long line of vital divisional games as the log-jammed Metropolitan Division refuses to separate.
While the first and second spots are currently on solid ground with Pittsburgh and Washington leading the way, that third playoff berth in the Metro is a highly sought-after item and there are five teams pursuing it - five teams that happen to be separated by a mere point in the standings. The Blue Jackets, winners of six of their last 10 games and finding their game of late, play their fourth of five straight Metro Division games on Friday in New Jersey and they've gone 2-1-0 so far in that stretch.
The Devils, on the other hand, don't have a good taste in their mouths after losing 5-2 in Chicago prior to the Christmas break. They were in the hockey game most of the way, but the Blackhawks
(as they so often do) pulled away in the third period at United Center in what ended up as a disappointing defeat for New Jersey, which was coming off a thrilling comeback in Washington the game prior.
How much is on the line in this game, you ask? The Blue Jackets (16-17-4) can pull to .500 with a victory and, if they do so in regulation, will surpass the Devils in the division standings.
VS. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
SUNDAY, 6 P.M.