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Game Day vs. Dallas

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

  Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Dallas Stars 
RECORDS - CBJ: 0-4-1 (Home:0-2-1), DAL: 4-1-0 (Home: 0-1-0)
WHEN: Oct. 18, 2011 - 7 p.m.   |   WHERE: Nationwide Arena
FOX Sports Ohio  |  LISTEN: 97.1 The Fan &

The Blue Jackets should have a fairly good read on the Dallas Stars, seeing as these two clubs got together just a couple of days ago. Columbus coach Scott Arniel described the Stars as a hard-working, structured team that makes the opposition grind for its scoring opportunities. After the Blue Jackets scored two goals on 15 shots in a 4-2 loss at American Airlines Center, that theory seems to be relatively accurate.

Stars coach Glen Gulutzan gave a heap of ice time to his top line, centered by Mike Ribeiro on Saturday night. With the last line change on home ice, Gulutzan had Ribeiro’s line with Brenden Morrow on the ice nearly every second shift – and it was an effective strategy. Columbus’ top line was able to generate offense playing against the Stars’ checking line, but the other three Blue Jackets lines were held in check aside from Alexandre Giroux’s second-period goal.

Another answer will need to come on the business end of those scoring chances: even though the Blue Jackets registered a low number of shots on Saturday night in Dallas, a handful of those were prime opportunities to score. Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen was not under duress very often, and that is something the Blue Jackets must rectify. Arniel wants his team to work first, and then let their skill aid them in scoring goals – and he came out of Saturday’s game feeling like his team was outworked, outhit and out-chanced in defeat.

Will Gulutzan ride the hot hand with Lehtonen on Tuesday night, or will he elect to give backup Andrew Raycroft his second start of the season? The guess here is Lehtonen will get the nod at Nationwide Arena, and have another opportunity to build on his already-stellar goaltending numbers (4-0-0, 1.48 GAA, .955 SV%).

Columbus coaches and players have stressed the importance of capitalizing on special teams and creating turnovers – one item that must improve in order for the Blue Jackets to register their first victory of the season. They did, however, get their first power-play goal of the season early in the opening period in Dallas courtesy of newcomer Vinny Prospal. Prospal, 36, is tied for the team lead in points and is the Blue Jackets’ leading goal-scorer five games into the season.

Adjustments are always the talk of the “second meeting” of the season, and this is one of the rare circumstances were non-division rivals face other with less than week turnaround. The Blue Jackets fell victim to several goalmouth passes, three of which found their final destination: the waiting sticks of Stars forwards. Dallas scored a trio of goals directly in front of Steve Mason, and a large part of the struggle was tying up the other player. The other goal – and perhaps strangest – was a 65-foot shot from Sheldon Souray that looked more like a knockdown 5-iron than a hockey puck.

The Blue Jackets get the second line change on home ice this time around, and it will be intriguing to see which matchups Arniel prefers when he has the option. Sammy Pahlsson figures to get the bulk of shifts against Ribeiro’s line, and the Columbus top line could benefit from some extra room if they can be kept away from Dallas’ checking unit.

Neither Dallas nor Columbus has been a stranger to one-goal games this season. Three of the Stars’ four wins have come by a single goal margin, and the Blue Jackets have lost three one-goal decisions including a shootout loss to Colorado. The key for the Blue Jackets in this game will be to get a lead, maintain their aggressive system and pursue the puck on the forecheck for 60 minutes – not allowing Dallas to settle into its passive neutral-zone scheme.

Prospal (3) Eriksson (3)
Carter, Nash (3) Ribeiro (5)
Prospal, Nash (5) Ribeiro (5)
Prospal (10) Ott (18)
3 tied with (+2) Souray (+4)
Mason (0-4-1)
Lehtonen (4-0-0)
Mason (3.40) Lehtonen (1.48)
Mason (.889) Lehtonen (.955)
•This will be the second of four meetings this season between the Stars and Blue Jackets. As we mentioned above, Dallas won the first matchup with a 4-2 win last weekend at American Airlines Center. The Stars are now 28-8-5 all-time against the Blue Jackets; the best record Dallas has against any other Western Conference opponent, and second-best versus any other NHL opponent (Winnipeg).
•The Blue Jackets enter tonight’s game in search of their first win of the season. The longest Columbus has ever gone winless to begin a season is six games.
•Jamie Benn’s assist in the first period on Saturday was the 100th point of his NHL career.
•Prospal’s power-play goal in Dallas will hopefully serve a needed spark to the Blue Jackets power play. His goal snapped a 0-for-20 slump on the power play for Columbus, the furthest the team has ever gone into the season without a goal on the man advantage.
•As of Monday, Lehtonen’s .955 save percentage was the best mark in the NHL. His 1.48 goals-against average is the league’s third-best, and his four wins also lead the NHL’s goaltenders.
•Columbus has not scored more than two goals (not including shootout tallies) in its last eight meetings with the Stars – the last time being in November 2009.
•The Blue Jackets will likely be without the services of center Jeff Carter on Tuesday night. Carter is recovering from a hairline fracture on his foot, an injury Arniel says dates back to training camp from blocking a shot.
•Since the beginning of the 2006-07 season, the Blue Jackets are 10-7-4 against the Stars and hold an all-time record of 7-10-3 at Nationwide Arena. The Stars have won their last three games and are led by Ribeiro (0-5-5) and Souray (1-3-4) in total scoring.

Mike Ribeiro

C  -  #63
  0 Goals
  5 Assists
  5 Points

•The Stars offense took a major hit when center Brad Richards elected free agency over a new contract in Dallas. Richards ran the power play and centered the No. 1 line, a job that now falls in the hands of the capable Ribeiro. He has already put up five assists in the Stars’ first five games and is a threat to either score a goal or make a dazzling play each time he handles the puck.

•He is the engine that drives Gulutzan’s top trio that also includes All-Star winger Loui Eriksson, who scored the 2-2 goal on Saturday night. Ribiero accumulated three of his assists in the last meeting with the Blue Jackets and his 500th career point was an assist on Morrow’s first-period marker. Columbus’ checking line must be on alert whenever Ribiero is on the ice, because as he’s shown so far this season, good things happen for the Stars when he is.

•Even when regulation hockey comes to a close, you still can’t escape Ribeiro. He is one of the NHL’s top shootout performers, and can be found on several YouTube clips for world-class artistry in the skills competition.

G Mark Dekanich (ankle); indefinitely
LW Kristian Huselius (pectoral); indefinitely
RW Jared Boll  (thumb); indefinitely
C Jeff Carter (foot); day-to-day
D Marc Methot (undisclosed); day-to-day

Carter on IR; Corbeil Recalled - Oct. 18
Bass Recalled from Springfield - Oct. 17
Calvert Assigned to Springfield - Oct. 17

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