BLUE JACKETS AT DEVILS
THURSDAY, 7 PM
FINAL: DEVILS 5 | BLUE JACKETS 2
SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: The Blue Jackets had clawed their way back in this game, getting a second-period goal from Marian Gaborik to close within one, but a crushing shorthanded tally makes the deficit wider entering the third period. The work boots were on, the forecheck was returning and Columbus had a power play to close out the second (they'll open the third on the PP) and potentially even things up...but one mistake magnifies it all. Jack Johnson mishandled the puck at the blue line, Patrik Elias stole it and sent an alley-oop to Adam Henrique - who beat Bobrovsky five-hole for his second of the game. Shots are 26-16 favoring the Devils but the Jackets spent more time in the offensive zone in that middle frame. Now that they're two down instead of one, they'll need more north-bound shifts in the third.
WATCH: Welcome back, Gaby!
GAME AUDIO: We're back in it! Marian Gaborik makes it a one goal hockey game in the second. The Devils lead 3-2. | LISTEN
FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: Well, not the best start for the Blue Jackets in Newark...but if there's a silver lining it's that they're only down two goals and they have 40 minutes to get back in it. The Devils scored three times in the first period, twice on the power play, and were up 3-0 before Todd Richards could slow things down with a timeout. The Jackets were a step slow in the first period, reaching and grabbing and not moving their feet - and the Devils took advantage, establishing a territorial advantage and putting 13 shots on the Columbus net. There's a ways to go, yes, but the next two periods have to be markedly better than the first, or else it'll be a long night at The Rock.
WATCH: It's an ARTY PARTY! Anisimov gets us on the board in the first.
GAME AUDIO: Artem Anisimov scores to make it 3-1 (Devils) in the 1st. | LISTEN
WATCH: Marian Gaborik talks about returning to the lineup tonight in New Jersey.
WATCH: Dalton Prout is also back with the Blue Jackets, and he shared his pre-game thoughts with Bob McElligott.
WATCH: Todd Richards' pre-game press conference this morning at Prudential Center.
LISTEN: INSIDE EDGE WITH BOB & JODY!
UPDATE (12:15 PM): Here's the projected lineup for the Blue Jackets tonight...
Jenner - Johansen - Horton
Calvert - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Foligno - Anisimov - Umberger
MacKenzie - Letestu - Gaborik
Johnson - Prout
Murray - Wisniewski
Nikitin - Savard
UPDATE (11:15 AM): In case you missed it, the Blue Jackets recalled Cody Goloubef from Springfield yesterday and he's meeting the team in New Jersey. He'll serve as the seventh defenseman tonight against the Devils.
UPDATE (11:00 AM): Good morning, friends. The Devils are taking their morning skate at Prudential Center and it looks as though Cory Schneider will indeed start tonight against the Blue Jackets.
MORNING SKATE: Oh hey there! We're back. And we missed you. The Blue Jackets are in Newark and are preparing to take on the New Jersey Devils tonight at the Prudential Center. The Jackets are scheduled for a morning skate at 11:30 a.m., and per usual, we'll have game day 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 are almost completely healthy, which is kind of crazy to believe considering where they were injury-wise a few weeks ago. Marian Gaborik returns tonight against the Devils, giving the Blue Jackets a group of 14 healthy forwards; that means Corey Tropp and Blake Comeau will be healthy scratches tonight as Gaborik draws back in after missing 22 games.
On the back end, Fedor Tyutin's injury (ankle) leaves a big void but Dalton Prout has been given an opportunity to step in and contribute. He will likely begin on a pairing with Jack Johnson.
Some guy named Sergei Bobrovsky - heard of him, maybe? - starts in goal for Columbus.
Alright, the topic has been beaten to death and nearly every NHL team is in the same boat, but...the appropriately-named "sprint to the playoffs" begins tonight for the Blue Jackets and there are two large divisional points up for grabs.
They're facing a New Jersey team that has played well of late and made its way back into the postseason conversation, and has very clearly been riding Cory Schneider between the pipes (he will start tonight against Columbus). Are the Devils an older team? Sure, but they are loaded with playoff and Stanley Cup experience and with players who know how to get it done when the time comes.
The challenge for the Blue Jackets is starting this break better than they have the previous two NHL seasons; Columbus opened 5-10 this season and won only five of its first 20 games to begin 2012-13. They've been slow starters, for sure, but there's no time for that post-Olympics and Richards has made that clear to his group since they reconvened en masse this week.
With a nearly healthy roster and competition for ice time at forward, the Blue Jackets have options if certain guys aren't going right out of the gate. Gaborik adds another dimension offensively and he'll start on the fourth line initially, giving Richards the option of moving him around depending on his play. The other three lines used pre-Olympics will not change, Richards said Wednesday, as he liked the way the team was playing and giving him the ability to roll four lines on a regular basis.
It'll be Bobrovsky vs. Schneider at the place they call "The Rock" on Thursday night, and it goes without saying that this game is a big one for both teams.
VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS
SATURDAY, 2 P.M.