BLUE JACKETS VS. BLUES
SATURDAY, 7 PM | NATIONWIDE ARENA
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BLUES 4 | BLUE JACKETS 3 (OT)
WATCH: Highlights from the second period of tonight's game...
SECOND PERIOD ANALYSIS: A much more tame middle frame here at Nationwide Arena, with St. Louis scoring the lone goal on the power play from Tarasenko (his second of the game). The Blue Jackets have drawn a truck load of penalties tonight and they'll open the third period with 1:02 of leftover PP time...but they've had two 5-on-3's so far - scoring on the first - and have had seven power plays through 40 minutes. Shots favor the Jackets by a 25-14 margin after two periods but the Blues have shown more of a willingness to shoot the puck as this game has progressed. Expect to see more of that in the third period, as their goaltender has kept them in striking distance after a poor start to the game. Forecheck, backcheck, skate...those are the simple keys to this third period for Columbus.
WATCH: First period highlights from tonight's game...
GOAL AUDIO: Tyutin | Anisimov | Johansen
FIRST PERIOD ANALYSIS: Everyone catch their breath? Good grief, what a wild first period at Nationwide Arena that felt like three different games all wrapped up in one fun package. The Blues scored first on a goal by Vladimir Tarasenko - his 10th of the season - on a loose puck in front of McKenna that the Jackets could not clear out of trouble. But the Blue Jackets' response seemed to set the tone for the remainder of the period: Anisimov's ninth goal of the season tied things up less than five minutes after the Blues scored, and Fedor Tyutin's slapper gave the Jackets a 2-1 lead at 11:39. Less than two minutes later, the Blues took some careless penalties and gave Columbus a 5-on-3 for 47 seconds...but they only needed seven seconds of it. Ryan Johansen buried a cross-ice pass from Dubinsky to make it 3-1 Columbus and Nationwide Arena has been buzzing throughout. Solid 20 minutes but there's plenty of hockey to be played.
WATCH: Ryan Johansen with a SICK goal on the power play, his 12th of the year, and it's 3-1.
WATCH: Fedor Tyutin's blast gives the Jackets a 2-1 lead!
WATCH: Artem Anisimov ties the game for Columbus with his ninth of the season.
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PRE GAME AUDIO: Mike McKenna | Corey Tropp | Todd Richards
WATCH: Corey Tropp chats with Bob McElligott about tonight's match-up against the Blues.
WATCH: Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards holds court with the media after today's morning skate.
WATCH: Here's the pre-game interview with Bob McElligott and Mike McKenna.
UPDATE (11:05 AM): Todd Richards confirms Mike McKenna starts in goal tonight for the Blue Jackets. Here are some snippets from his pre-game meeting with the media...
- Richards said the concern isn't only the Blues' top line: "their whole team is committed to playing the same way." He also said sticking to what's made his team successful (pucks deep, five guys up ice for coverage, strong special teams, good forecheck) is going to be important against one of the league's top teams.
- His message to the team this morning: "this is going to be a man's game tonight."
- On Skille's assignment: "guys are starting to get close...I'm not going to say Monday (for a return), but they're getting close."
UPDATE (10:15 AM): Here are the expected lines and pairs for Columbus tonight...
Foligno - Johansen - Umberger
Calvert - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Jenner - Anisimov - Comeau
MacKenzie - Letestu - Tropp
Tyutin - Johnson
Murray - Savard
Nikitin - Prout
Mike McKenna gets the start.
UPDATE (10:10 AM): Jeremy Smith is here for the morning skate after being recalled yesterday. He's defending the Jackets' shoot-twice net, which confirms what we already knew yesterday that Mike McKenna is tonight's starting netminder for Columbus.
UPDATE (10:05 AM): The morning skate is underway at Nationwide Arena, and there are some fresh faces taking part today. Marian Gaborik has returned to practice with the group, and also, James Wisniewski is on the ice. Neither player is likely to suit up tonight against the St. Louis Blues.
MORNING SKATE: The Blue Jackets are back in Columbus after a 4-2 win over the Rangers on Thursday night, and they're preparing to take on the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. They're scheduled for a 10AM morning skate on their home ice, and as always, you can expect us to be on-hand for it. 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 Blues, storylines from the other side and an interview with coach Todd Richards. Stay tuned to this page for the latest!
The obvious and immediate concern for the Blue Jackets is the health of their goaltenders, as both Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney are out of the lineup with injuries. That means St. Louis native Mike McKenna, the AHL's reigning Goaltender of the Month for November, will get the start tonight against the Blues at Nationwide Arena.
Jeremy Smith, McKenna's goaltending partner in Springfield, was recalled on an emergency basis Friday afternoon and he'll serve as the backup. To make room for Smith, the Blue Jackets placed James Wisniewski on IR retroactive to Dec. 6, meaning he's eligible to return as soon as Monday's game against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Blue Jackets and Blues locked horns in several Central Division battles over the past few seasons, most notably when both teams were pushing for playoff berths in the spring of 2009.
And while things are a bit different now with the Blue Jackets settling in to life in the Eastern Conference, they won't need any introductions when the puck drops on another important game on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets, having won their last two games and four of their previous five, are within two points of third place in the Metropolitan Division despite several injuries to key players - including both of the top goalies on their depth chart and a top-line winger in Marian Gaborik
.Here are tonight's dueling team scopes from NHL.com...Blues:
St. Louis recently experienced a rare losing stretch, dropping three of four with all three losses coming against California teams. But the Blues rebounded this week with wins against a pair of Canadian franchises. Following a 2-1 road win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, the Blues welcomed the Toronto Maple Leafs to Scottrade Center on Thursday.
St. Louis scored three times in the first period, and Chris Stewart gave the Blues a commanding 4-0 lead 29 seconds into the second. Nazem Kadri replied 76 seconds later, but Alexander Steen scored his 22nd of the season 7:04 into the third and the Blues eventually wrapped up a 6-3 win.
"We jumped on them early," said forward Jaden Schwartz, who had a three-point night. "We threw a lot of pucks on net. We got a lot of second-chance opportunities tonight. Everyone played well."
St. Louis' wins came with Adam Cracknell in the lineup and Magnus Paajarvi a healthy scratch, although Cracknell is looking for his first point of the season.
Blue Jackets: A difficult season for Columbus appeared even more challenging when franchise goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was lost for a month with a groin strain on Dec. 3. But the Blue Jackets have gone 3-1-0 since losing the Vezina Trophy winner and received solid goaltending from some unlikely sources.
That was especially the case Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers, when Curtis McElhinney was forced to leave after one period with a lower-body injury. With Columbus up 3-1, Mike McKenna came in relief and stopped 17 of 18 shots in his first NHL action since Dec. 2, 2010 to secure a 4-2 win that saw Artem Anisimov score against his former team.
VS. WINNIPEG JETS
MONDAY, 7 P.M.