BLUE JACKETS (2-5-1) VS. RED WINGS (4-2-1)
NATIONWIDE ARENA | COLUMBUS, OH
7 P.M. TONIGHT
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: CD 102.5 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM
The last time the Blue Jackets faced the Red Wings at Nationwide Arena, it was one of the home team's better performances of the season.
Nearly two weeks ago, these two Central Division rivals clashed in the friendly confines on a nationally-televised home opening night for the Blue Jackets, a game that saw its fair share of ebbs and flows before all was said and done. The Red Wings were a far different team than they are now, and at the time, were 48 hours removed from absorbing a 6-0 shellacking by the St. Louis Blues to open the season.
Detroit is in better shape now, and returned the favor with a 5-3 win over the Blues last night at Joe Louis Arena. It was an all-cylinders effort from the Red Wings, who look rejuvenated after struggling a bit out of the gate. Henrik Zetterberg has caught fire, Pavel Dastyuk is back to his old self and the Red Wings' offensive efforts are masking some of their deficiencies and injuries on the blue line, which isn't something they've had to deal with in the last, oh, 20 years.
The good news for Mike Babcock's club is their best players were the best players in their win over St. Louis, and they have received some really nice work from Jimmy Howard between the pipes. Despite a groin issue that's been troubling expected back-up Jonas Gustavsson, Howard has stepped up and shouldered the load in goal, and has been one of the Red Wings' most consistent players so far.
It's been needed, too, as the Red Wings are still battling injury issues that have lingered since the start of the year. Ian White is reportedly a few days away from returning to the lineup after a skate lacerated his leg, and he's joined by Darren Helm, Carlo Colaiacovo, Gustavsson, Mikael Samuelsson, and Jan Mursak on the sidelines for Detroit. Zetterberg had been battling flu-like symptoms over the past few days, according to Bill Roose of DetroitRedWings.com, but all he did was suit up and notch a hat trick in last night's victory.
Another big question for the Red Wings: when will Howard get to rest? They complete the second half of a back-to-back set tonight at Nationwide Arena, and Howard has played all seven games to date. Does Babcock opt to go with former first-round pick Tom McCollum tonight against the Blue Jackets, or does he continue to ride the hot hand with Howard? Regardless of the goaltender choice, Detroit faces a Blue Jackets club that is looking for different ways to score goals, averaging fewer than two tallies per game.
For Columbus, the goaltending decision is also up in the air. Sergei Bobrovsky was pulled after yielding three goals on 11 shots against St. Louis on Thursday, while Steve Mason entered the game and kept a clean sheet in 46-plus minutes of action.
- The Blue Jackets scored a pair of power play goals in their last meeting with Detroit, and they were big-time goals in crucial moments. James Wisniewski tied the game with a wicked one-timer in the third period, and Vinny Prospal gave them their first lead just minutes later. Their puck movement was quick, snappy and they had bodies at the net, and it was as deadly as the power play has looked all season.
- Brandon Dubsinky drew the other assist on Derick Brassard’s man-up marker, giving him points in three of his last four games. He's been a consistent player for Columbus and it's only a matter of time before he notches his first goal as a Blue Jacket.
- The Blue Jackets dropped the gloves four times on Thursday night, giving them 12 bouts on the season (most in the NHL).
- Wisniewski picked up an assist on the Brassard power play goal Thursday, extending an assists streak to three straight games.
CENTER | #51
2012-13 STATS: 2-3-5, 7 GP
The Red Wings waited longer than they had hoped for Filppula to break out and prove capable of a No. 2 center role behind the Datsyuk/Zetterberg combo, and last year, their patience was rewarded. The 28-year-old Finn put up a career-high 66 points (23 goals, 43 assists) last season, surpassing his previous season-high total by 26 points.