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GAME DAY: vs. Los Angeles

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets
  Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Los Angeles Kings
RECORDS - CBJ: 21-38-7 (Home: 12-18-3), PHX: 31-23-12 (Road: 14-10-8)
WHEN: Mar. 8, 2012 - 7 p.m.   |   WHERE: Nationwide Arena

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The Blue Jackets aren’t going to let the return of a former teammate stand in the way of unfinished business on their schedule. Riding a three-game winning streak for the first time this season, Columbus has the chance to stretch it to four straight wins tonight against the Los Angeles Kings. Just 13 days after completing a trade that brought Jack Johnson to Columbus (and a first-round draft pick) in exchange for Jeff Carter, the latter plays his first game against the Blue Jackets as a member of the Kings tonight.

Los Angeles, like so many teams the Blue Jackets have faced of late, is fighting for a playoff berth but has an opportunity with fewer games played than some competing clubs. This is their 67th game of the season tonight at Nationwide Arena, and as of today, the Kings sit at 74 points in a three-way tie for eighth place in the Western Conference standings. If the season ended today, they would not qualify for the playoffs due to 27 regulation/overtime wins (ROW), which is one short of Colorado’s 28.

Needless to say it’s another crucial two points on the line and the Kings need them badly. The Blue Jackets’ improved play is a clear signal to opposing teams that it will not be an easy night for them, and Los Angeles can look no further than Phoenix. The Coyotes led the Pacific Division when they played the Blue Jackets at Arena over the weekend, and after two losses to Columbus in a span of four days, they have fallen out of the division lead and have a one-point buffer on the playoff bar.

One thing the Kings have done lately is score goals, and it’s a welcomed sign for head coach Darryl Sutter – who has had to work with the NHL’s worst offense since taking over in December. The Kings have won four of their last five games, out-scoring opponents 18-8 in that stretch. Los Angeles had scored at least four goals in those four victories – and prior to the Carter trade – had tallied just five goals in the previous four contests.

Jonathan Quick is expected to start in goal for Los Angeles tonight. He is 8-5-0 with a 2.08 goals-against average in his career against the Blue Jackets.

Nash (24) Kopitar, Brown (19)
Prospal (31) Kopitar (37)
Nash (47) Kopitar (56)
Dorsett (190) Clifford (101)
MacKenzie (+4) Brown (+9)
Sanford (10-15-4)
Quick (27-18-11)
Sanford (2.66) Quick (1.96)
Sanford (.911) Quick (.931)
• Columbus enters tonight’s game winners of three straight following Tuesday’s 3-2 over Phoenix. It is the first time the club has won three straight games since Feb. 18-25, 2011. The Blue Jackets have gone 8-6-1 the last 15 games after posting a 4-15-2 mark the previous 21 outings.

• With the win on Tuesday vs. the Coyotes, Steve Mason improved to 6-3-1 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .921 save percentage his last 10 games after going 1-7-1 with a 3.73 GAA and .880 SV% his previous 10 games. He has also made 30 or more saves in nine of his last 11 starts. The win against the Coyotes was the 88th of his career (210 games), a franchise record.

Jack Johnson has points in back-to-back games after registering a goal and an assist Tuesday against Phoenix. His goal snapped a 15-game goalless skid as he last scored Jan. 23 vs. Ottawa as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. The assists in back-to-back games come after he went seven games without an assist. The multi-point outing was his first since Jan. 12 vs. Dallas, a span of 21 games.

• Tonight marks the fourth and final meeting overall and second of two at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Kings. Columbus is 19-21-3 all-time against Los Angeles, including an 11-8-2 mark at Nationwide Arena.


C - #11
  19 GOALS

• Like many of his teammates, Kopitar fell victim to the Kings’ scoring struggles earlier in the year. He’s red-hot right now, riding a four-game points streak (2-3-5 in that span) and has points in 20 of the last 24 games overall. The big Slovenian center has to be an offensive force for the Kings to contend, and right now, he is.

D Radek Martinek (concussion); out for the season
LW Kristian Huselius (lower body); indefinitely
D Marc Methot (jaw); indefinitely
RW Jared Boll (foot); week-to-week

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