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GAME DAY: Minnesota

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

BLUE JACKETS (18-16-7) AT WILD (22-16-2)




With two points in their back pocket before hopping on a flight to the Twin Cities, the Blue Jackets have to make sure that Friday night's win is a thing of the past. The next - and most important - item on the agenda is tonight's game at the Xcel Energy Center, a place that has not been too kind to Columbus over the years.

These two teams last met less than a week ago at Nationwide Arena and it was the Wild that played a cleaner, more complete game in a 3-0 victory. The Blue Jackets were not happy with their performance in what was a huge game coming off a mini two-game road trip to Nashville and St. Louis, and the Wild needed only a power play goal from Ryan Suter to take two points from the Jackets.

And tonight, the stakes are even higher for both teams. The Wild (46 points) is hovering dangerously close to the playoff bar and are only three points clear of 11th place in the Western Conference, and a recent slump isn't helping: Minnesota has dropped two straight and won only four of its last 10 games and may be without the services of both Matt Cullen and Ryan Suter tonight against Columbus. Already without Dany Heatley, who recently underwent season-ending shoulder surgery, the Wild needs more offensive production from its top players if there are playoff aspirations in St. Paul.

In their 4-1 win over the Blues on Friday, the Blue Jackets had 11 different players register at least a point and Cam Atkinson led the way with a goal and assist. Marian Gaborik, playing in his fifth game with the Jackets, scored his third goal in the union blue and was flying in Columbus' second consecutive win.

Minnesota is expected to start Niklas Backstrom against the Blue Jackets tonight less than a week after shutting them out at Nationwide Arena. This should be no surprise, but expect Columbus to counter with Sergei Bobrovsky yet again.

- Join the Blue Jackets' social media team for our next #CBJBWW social viewing party TONIGHT at the Buffalo Wild Wings location in Marion! Puck drop is 8 p.m., so make sure to get there early for your chance to win prizes and interact with fellow fans.

- The Blue Jackets were 25-for-48 in the face-off circle vs. the Blues and have now won 256 of their last 466 draws (54.9%). Columbus is tied for sixth place in the NHL with an overall winning pct. of 51.5 this season.

- James Wisniewski skated in his 400th career NHL game on Friday and assisted on Johansen’s goal. Wisniewski also blocked a team-high three shots and finished the night with a +2 plus/minus rating.

- Columbus was 5-for-5 in man down situations on Friday. The Blue Jackets have now killed off 29 of their last 32 penalties (90.6%) at Nationwide Arena and rank seventh in the NHL with a home ice PK pct. of 87.7.

Cal Clutterbuck
2012-13 STATS: 3-5-8, 34 GP

The last name "Clutterbuck" is all too familiar for Blue Jackets fans, as the 25-year-old agitator has found his way under the skin of many in Columbus over the years with his in-your-face style of play. With the Wild adding some star power up front over the summer, head coach Mike Yeo has been able to find a definite spot and role in the lineup for Clutterbuck and he's spent a lot of time on the club's third line this season. Though his offensive numbers aren't at the level they have been in years past, Clutterbuck is an effective role player for a Wild team that has playoff aspirations.


MINNESOTA: Ryan Suter (undisclosed), day-to-day; Matt Cullen (undisclosed), day-to-day, Dany Heatley (shoulder surgery), out

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