BLUE JACKETS (19-16-7) AT AVALANCHE (14-22-6)
PEPSI CENTER | DENVER, CO
9 P.M. MONDAY
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM
One of the more exhausting exercises in the midst of a playoff race is to expect help from other teams in the chase. If the Blue Jackets are going to make it into the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring, they'll just have to do it the hard way - but that's just fine with them.
As it has gone over the past couple of months, whenever the Blue Jackets (or any team, for that matter) get close to the playoff bar, one of the competing teams finds a way to make the margin a little bit wider. Such was the case last night when Blue Jackets fans found themselves "rooting" for the Nashville Predators to defeat the Detroit Red Wings, but the Red Wings notched a 3-0 win at Bridgestone Arena to move the Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars two points back.
Now tonight's game at the Pepsi Center has that much more significance. The Blue Jackets, facing an Avalanche team that's fallen on hard times this season, know they have to be better than they were Saturday night against Minnesota and cannot rely on their goaltender to put them on his back every single game. With a day off on Sunday to rest and recoup, the Blue Jackets want to make sure their energy level is higher from the outset tonight against a team that's playing for pride in the final three weeks.
That's something the Blue Jackets will have to be aware of, and they can't let their guard down even though the Avalanche are on the outside of the playoff race. Colorado stunned Vancouver two days ago by scoring the game-winning goal with 7.8 seconds left in the third period and took two points away in the blink of an eye. Given Columbus' historical struggles at Pepsi Center, a more focused effort from puck drop is at the top of the "essentials" list on Monday night.
Since goaltender J.S. Giguere publicly chastised his teammates for talking about their off-season plans, the Avalanche are 2-0-1 and playing a stronger team game than they did in the month prior. The wily veteran is likely to start between the pipes for Colorado tonight, while the Blue Jackets will go back to Sergei Bobrovsky - who was nothing short of masterful in St. Paul.
- Bobrovsky earned his 16th win of the season on Saturday night and did so in fine fashion, making 39 saves in regulation and overtime while adding two more clutch stops in the shootout on Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. His goaltending numbers - particularly a .931 save percentage - are among the NHL's best this season.
- These two teams have split their previous two meetings this season, the latest being a 2-1 overtime win for the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Mar. 3. Anisimov's game-winner kicked off a 12-game points streak for Columbus and helped get them back in the playoff picture.
- Anisimov, who suffered an upper body injury as the result of a high hit from Minnesota's Charlie Coyle on Saturday, will not be in the Jackets' lineup tonight and will be out indefinitely.
DEFENSE | #41
2012-13 STATS: 2-9-11, 26 GP
For a club needing some stability on the blue line, the Avalanche are hoping Barrie's career continues to develop as it has in his first full NHL season. He's spent time with both Colorado's AHL club in Cleveland and with the Avalanche, and has played well at the NHL level while contributing offensively. He's a strong skater and can bring offense from the back end - something the Avalanche can benefit from in the present and future.
COLUMBUS: Artem Anisimov (upper body), out indefinitely; Tim Erixon (upper body), questionable
COLORADO: Semyon Varlamov (hip), questionable; Milan Hejduk, Erik Johnson, Chuck Kobasew, all questionable; Ryan Wilson (IR)