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Game Day Central: Blue Jackets vs. Canucks

by Staff / Columbus Blue Jackets

BLUE JACKETS (2-5-0) vs. CANUCKS (5-3-1)

UPDATE: The Blue Jackets reassign F Jack Skille to the Springfield Falcons. Read more here.

Breaking down the key facts, figures and statistics from tonight's 3-1 Blue Jackets victory. Read it now.

Ryan Johansen seals the CBJ victory with an empty net goal in the third! Hear it now.

RJ Umberger's third period goal - his first of the year - that gave the Jackets a 2-1 lead. Hear it now.

Vancouver put together a better period than the Jackets in the middle stanza, leveling things at 1-1 on a bizarre power play goal from Henrik Sedin. Let's start with that goal: Ryan Kesler backhanded the puck into the pads of McElhinney, who was down in the butterfly and appeared to have the puck sealed up. The Canucks kept chipping away and McElhinney ended up sliding backward into the net - and only then did the puck appear behind him and across the line. After a brief review, the goal stood as called on the ice and that's where we stand after 40 minutes. The Blue Jackets spent a lot more time defending in that period and at the other end, Lack was pretty good and made 14 saves. The highlight was a right-toe stop on Cam Atkinson, who came flying in off the rush. Columbus has 1:52 of PP time to start the third period...big chance for the home team.

The good news is that the Blue Jackets hold a 1-0 lead over the Canucks after 20 minutes here at Nationwide Arena - their first lead in over 200 minutes of hockey (no typo). The bad news is that, despite the lead, they're being out-shot 13-2 by Vancouver so far but Curtis McElhinney has been solid and kept the rebounds out of harm's way. Columbus has played solid defensively and limited the Canucks' chances off the rush, and a lot more of that will be required in the final 40 minutes. It could have been 2-0 Columbus, but a rolling puck in front of the net fooled Jared Boll late in the period. The bright spot in the first period? Definitely the Jackets' fourth line of Letestu-MacKenzie-Boll, setting the tone physically and helping estbalish the forecheck.

Gaborik's nifty goal that got Columbus on the board in the first period.

LISTEN: Marian Gaborik's third goal of the season gave the Jackets an early 1-0 lead! Listen here.

The Blue Jackets are wrapping up tonight's pre-game warmup and we're likely to see some line combination changes against the Canucks. Here's how they skated in warmup:



The Blue Jackets are NOT scheduled for a morning skate on Sunday after arriving late from D.C. If/when players and Todd Richards meet with the media, we will provide updates right here at Game Day Central. Stay tuned!

UPDATE (4:00 PM): Here's the full pre-game media session with Richards, courtesy of Jackets TV.

UPDATE (3:45 PM):
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, celebrating his 47th birthday today, just met with the media and provided some pre-game updates...

- Dalton Prout returns to the lineup today against the Canucks. Nikita Nikitin is a healthy scratch on defense.

- Up front, Nick Foligno returns and Jack Skille, who made his Jackets debut last night in Washington, will be scratched this evening. 

- Richards wants to see the Blue Jackets give Curtis McElhinney some support today, and he doesn't just mean in the defensive zone. The Blue Jackets have to get back to doing "the little things" and commit to the details, Richards said, two things they've gotten away from at times during this four-game skid.

- Richards said 20-year-old defenseman Ryan Murray, who will play his seventh straight game today, has arguably been the Jackets' most consistent blueliner so far this season. 

UPDATE (1:55 PM):
Via Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province, here's the projected Canucks lineup for today's game.

D.Sedin - H.Sedin - Kesler

Higgins - Santorelli - Hansen

Booth - Richardson - Kassian

Sestito - Welsh - Weise

Edler - Garrison

Hamhuis - Tanev

Bieksa - Stanton

SOCIAL STATION CONTEST: How about a game day #CBJSocial contest? Sounds good to us. All you have to do is correctly answer the following trivia question by tweeting us at @BlueJacketsNHL, and we'll randomly select one winner for two (2) tickets to the game! 

Q: What is the date of the last game current Canucks coach John Tortorella coached in at Nationwide Arena?

UPDATE (12:30 PM):
It's shaping up to be a battle of the backup netminders today at Nationwide Arena. The Canucks will start Eddie Lack and the Blue Jackets are going with Curtis McElhinney. As we mentioned earlier, McElhinney is making his first start for Columbus.

UPDATE (11:20 AM):
Did you miss FOX Sports Ohio's awesome feature on Nathan Horton and the happiness he's found in his new Columbus home? We've got it right here, on Jackets TV.

UPDATE (10:30 AM):
With the Canucks in town, the Blue Jackets open a four-game home stand today at Nationwide Arena. Rob Mixer has today's game preview.

Let's get this one out of the way first: Curtis McElhinney is expected to make his Blue Jackets debut today, and start in goal for Columbus against Vancouver. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said earlier this week that he wanted to get McElhinney, who hasn't made an appearance for the Jackets, a start in one of the Jackets' back-to-back games this weekend and it appears Sunday will be the day. 

Canucks, who block a lot of shots under coach John Tortorella, reportedly came out of their Saturday matinee in Pittsburgh unscatched. Roberto Luongo played pretty well for Vancouver but it's not yet known whether he will make the back-to-back start. If not Luongo, the Canucks will go with young Swedish back-up Eddie Lack against the Blue Jackets. 

The Blue Jackets got Marian Gaborik back in the lineup on Saturday night against the Capitals, and they may have the services of Nick Foligno on Sunday, who remained in Columbus throughout the week tending to a personal matter. Jack Skille was recalled from Springfield on Saturday morning and Sean Collins was re-assigned, giving Richards more options up front if he wants to make a change.

Perhaps the best thing is to get back on home ice if you're the Blue Jackets. 

They have dropped four straight games after a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals last night at Verizon Center and did not have much going after falling behind 2-0 in the second period. Rather than make things interesting, Columbus dug itself a deeper hole with back-to-back goals from Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin in the third period.

The Blue Jackets, already walking a fine line when it comes to scoring goals, gave the NHL's best power play more than enough ammunition and Washington tallied twice on the man advantage.

Columbus faces a Canucks team today that held a third-period lead on Saturday in Pittsburgh, but that lead lasted all of a few seconds.

After Zack Kassian re-directed a point shot to give Vancouver a 3-2 lead at CONSOL Energy Center, the Canucks made a mistake in the offensive zone on the very next shift, and they did so with Sidney Crosby's line on the ice. The ensuing 3-on-2 rush led to defenseman Olli Maatta's first career goal, batting in a rebound between the pads of Roberto Luongo to make it a 3-3 game.

The Canucks would drop the game in the shootout, a 4-3 final, and arrived in Columbus on Saturday evening. 

For the Blue Jackets, the question is how do they respond? How can they put this four-game skid in the rear-view mirror and get back on track with a home-heavy schedule on the horizon? It's rather imperative that they reverse the current trend with a home-ice win on Sunday afternoon and get the ball rolling in the other (and more positive) direction.

Here are tonight's projected lines for the Blue Jackets:

Atkinson - Anisimov - Gaborik
Jenner - Dubinsky - Letestu
Comeau - Johansen - Umberger
Skille - MacKenzie - Boll

Tyutin - Johnson
Murray - Wisniewski
Prout - Savard

*Another possible combination: Johnson-Prout, Tyutin-Savard.
*Richards also said it's possible Foligno plays tonight, but not certain.


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