|If last night’s game at Scottrade Center serves as any indication, the back end of the home-and-home series this afternoon at Nationwide Arena will not be for the faint of heart. The Blues and Blue Jackets aren’t known to be fond of one another, and each of their sixth annual meetings does not prove otherwise. The games are always intense, physical battles and the type of games that are won in the trenches – just what a grinding team like St. Louis prefers. |
The Blue Jackets had a slow start to last night’s game, falling behind 1-0 early in the first period and were out-shot 15-6 through 20 minutes of play. They rebounded in the middle frame and tied the game on Cam Atkinson’s second career NHL goal, which was set up by a nice Mark Letestu centering pass. But the Blues ended the second period on a high note, getting goals from T.J. Oshie and Chris Stewart to push their lead to 3-1 after 40 minutes.
Brian Elliot was stellar in goal for St. Louis, which is likely to split the goaltending duties today. Jaroslav Halak has been one of the hottest goalies in the NHL since the All-Star break, and like Elliot, is in the top-five in both goals-against average and save percentage among all NHL goaltenders. The key to success against Halak is to funnel pucks to the net and create traffic in the slot, forcing him to peer around bodies and work harder to find the puck.
Curtis Sanford is expected to make the back-to-back start for Columbus today, with Steve Mason injured and emergency recall Allen York just up from Chicago (ECHL). The former Blues netminder was solid for the Blue Jackets last night, and was victimized by defensive breakdowns in front of him. With the last change on home ice today, Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards will be better able to dictate the matchups against the Blues forwards.
One thing to watch is the ice time logged by James Wisniewski and Jack Johnson, who played heavy minutes last night at Scottrade Center. With the Columbus blue line hampered by injury, “Controlled Chaos” will be called upon to play in all situations.
| || || |
|Nash (24) ||Backes (21) |
|Prospal (33) ||Pietrangelo (31) |
|Nash (47) ||Backes, Oshie (48) |
|Dorsett (192) ||Reaves (104) |
|MacKenzie (+4) ||Shattenkirk (+27) |
|Sanford (10-16-4) |
|Halak (23-10-5) |
|Sanford (2.66) ||Elliott (1.61) |
|Sanford (.911) ||Elliott (.938) || |
|• Columbus enters tonight’s game winners of four of the last five games. The club had a four-game winning streak halted last night at St. Louis. It was the first time the club has won four straight games since Nov. 17-24, 2010, when the club won five straight games. The Blue Jackets have gone 9-7-1 the last 17 games after posting a 4-15-2 mark the previous 21 outings. Tonight’s game concludes a stretch that has Columbus playing four games in six nights. |
• Columbus plays in 16 back-to-back sets this season. The Jackets play one home/home sets, home/road sets five times, road/home sets on five occasions and five back-to-back road/road sets. Columbus is 78-80-22 all-time in the first game of back-to-backs and is 58-96-25 all-time in the second game. Tonight is the second night of back-to-back games.
•C Mark Letestu snapped a 16-game goalless skid with two goals Mar. 8 vs. Los Angeles. He had last scored Dec. 18 at St. Louis. The multi-goal game is the second of his NHL career and first since Dec. 8, 2010 vs. Toronto(with Pittsburgh), a span of 80 games. He had an assist last night at St. Louis to give him points three straight games after being held pointless the previous five games. He has recorded 3-8-11 the last 18 games after being held to 2-1-3 the previous 15 games.
• Tonight marks the fourth of six meetings overall and second of three at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Blues. Columbus is 23-30-13 all-time against St. Louis.
LW - #21
• The big Swedish winger has benefitted from the early-season coaching change in St. Louis, and is playing with confidence as the playoff race heats up. His 14 goals are the fourth-most on the Blues, and his lightning-quick release is a weapon for the St. Louis power play.
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
D Fedor Tyutin (hand); indefinitely
G Steve Mason (hand); day-to-day
RW Derek Dorsett (upper body); undisclosed
C Derek MacKenzie (concussion like symptoms); day-to-day