BLUE JACKETS 3 | WILD 1
ANALYSIS: The Blue Jackets have struggled to get much going offensively so far in this game, but they got a big break late in the period and are in this game with 20 minutes of regulation time left. After a furious scramble around the Wild net, goalie Darcy Kuemper lost his stick when the puck went to the side wall - and as he went to recover it, Kevin Connauton threw the puck on net and it beat Kuemper to draw the Jackets into a 1-1 tie through 40 minutes. There were strong moments in the second period but overall, this has not been the Blue Jackets' most sound or structured game over the last month. They've got the crowd back in the game now, and a big chance to forge ahead and get two more valuable points. Shots are 17-16 favoring Minnesota.
ANALYSIS: The Blue Jackets were on their game for the first half of that opening period, but they got away from their style and penalty trouble came back to bite them. They had all four lines active and in the game before taking back-to-back penalties midway through, and the second penalty resulted in a power play goal for Zach Parise (off a terrific pass from Mikko Koivu). Columbus had five of the game's first six shots, but Minnesota got a big boost of energy from the Parise goal and dominated the rest of the frame. Shots are 12-8 favoring the Wild, and the first great Jackets chance didn't come until the final minute of the period when Ryan Johansen was denied from the slot.
UPDATE (11:15 AM): Stay tuned, as we'll have pre-game interviews with Nick Foligno and Corey Tropp posted here shortly.
UPDATE (10:45 AM): We can confirm the Blue Jackets will go with the lineup below for tonight's game. That means Cody Goloubef and Jordan Leopold are the scratches on defense, and Sean Collins is the odd man out up front.
UPDATE (10:10 AM): Here are today's lines and pairs...
*Cracknell took the first rushes so it appears he's in tonight.
UPDATE (10:05 AM): Bobrovsky is in the starter's net and will get the call tonight against Minnesota.
How about a Blue Jackets game day to close out 2014?
The New Year's Eve game used to be an annual tradition around these parts, but we haven't played one at Nationwide Arena since 2011-12. It's great to have it back, and tonight, the Blue Jackets are aiming for their 10th and final win in December to ring in 2015.
Minnesota comes in to tonight's game feeling pretty good after a big road win over the Winnipeg Jets, a team they're chasing in the Central Division standings. This game means a lot to both teams, as the Blue Jackets find themselves in a similar position trying to get back in the Eastern Conference playoff conversation.
Here are some tidbits to get you started:
- Sergei Bobrovsky has been feeling much better and is expected to start tonight for the Blue Jackets. Curtis McElhinney played well in his absence in Saturday's win over Boston, and Todd Richards said Tuesday that there's a possibility that McElhinney starts at least one game on the upcoming road trip.
- Nick Foligno will play in his 500th NHL game tonight.
- According to Mike Russo of the Star Tribune, the Wild will go with Darcy Kuemper between the pipes tonight.
- After taking a puck off the face in Saturday's game, Jack Skille is good to go tonight.
- The Blue Jackets placed Cam Atkinson (upper body) on injured reserve yesterday and he will miss at least the next two games. He's eligible to be activated for Sunday's game in Denver, but there's been no update as to whether that's a possibility.
- Speaking of possibilities, Mark Letestu has been practicing the past few days and is making progress toward a return from groin and abdominal surgery. Richards said Letestu will not play tonight or in any of the first three games on the trip; if he does make his return on the road trip, it could be next Thursday night in Toronto.
- Both Atkinson and Letestu will travel with the Blue Jackets on the four-game, nine-day trip that begins with a game in Glendale on Saturday and concludes in Toronto next week.