BLUE JACKETS (16-14-7) AT BLUES (19-14-2)
SCOTTRADE CENTER | ST. LOUIS, MO
FRIDAY, 8 P.M.
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: 97.1 FM & BLUEJACKETS.COM
There's a reason people say this is the best time of year in the National Hockey League. Every game has a magnified importance and teams dig deeper than ever to secure at least one point in the standings, making for the purest brand of competition.
And tonight in St. Louis will be the prime example: two teams, the Blues and Blue Jackets, sandwiched in a log jam of teams vying for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference with inside a month to go in the regular season. This is what it's all about, what teams play for, and both teams are going to be geared up for the next "most important game of the season" tonight at the Scottrade Center.
The building will be revved up, the players will be energized and it's safe to say we're in for a dandy. Did we mention this will be an intense game? We'll be reminding you of this throughout this preview and during game day - as the number of games on the schedule continues to dwindle, every game becomes that much more pivotal. Columbus and St. Louis are both lurking and ready to take advantage of any stumbling done above them in the standings, but unfortunately for both clubs, only one of them can get two points tonight.
Last night featured two games much like this one; the Blue Jackets had a showdown with the Predators in Nashville and the Blues had to enter the dragon's lair that is United Center in Chicago. It's a given that Central Division road games are never easy, but add in the intensity of a playoff race, and both games were excellent hockey theater. The Blues battled back to take a 3-2 lead in the third period but Chicago tied it late, only to see St. Louis get the shootout winner from Kevin Shattenkirk.
On the other hand, the Blue Jackets marched into a building that hasn't been kind to them over the years and emerged with a clutch 3-1 win. Marian Gaborik notched the game-winner in his Columbus debut and Brandon Dubinsky pitched in a pair of assists, while Sergei Bobrovsky continued his roll between the pipes.
Two teams feeling pretty good about themselves square off at Scottrade Center tonight with their playoff hopes on the line. Could you ask for anything more?
- Another road game, another #CBJBWW party tonight. Join us at the Buffalo Wild Wings location in Mount Vernon to watch the game, win some prizes and tickets, and mingle with fellow fans! Details can be found here.
- Blake Comeau, acquired by the Blue Jackets at the trade deadline on Wednesday, is expected to meet the team in St. Louis today and could be in the lineup tonight. His immigration issues were resolved on Thursday and he was traveling in the evening.
- Dubinsky's presence in the lineup was a big boost in Thursday's win over Nashville, and he anchored the fourth line before moving up in the third period. He logged over 18 minutes of ice time and had a pair of helpers, as we mentioned above.
- Look for Todd Richards to go back to Bobrovsky tonight in St. Louis.
- With Jaroslav Halak injured, the Blues have had to rely on Brian Elliot to carry the mail between the pipes. With Elliot starting last night's game in Chicago, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has the option to start Jake Allen tonight against Columbus.
DEFENSE | #19
2012-13 STATS: 6-10-6, 34 GP
Blues GM Doug Armstrong has long-coveted Bouwmeester, one of the sturdiest defensemen in the NHL and the league's current ironman with over 600 consecutive games played. St. Louis swung a deal with Calgary to acquire the 29-year-old on the eve of the trade deadline and immediately bolstered their defense corps, one of the strengths of their team.
COLUMBUS: Jared Boll (upper body), day-to-day; Tim Erixon (upper body), day-to-day