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Game Preview: Blue Jackets return home to face Jets

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Winnipeg Jets come exactly as advertised: big, fast, and aggressive.

Since Paul Maurice took over, the Jets have become one of the Central Division’s toughest opponents, and it’s their style of play that gives them a chance to win every single night.

Not only do they forecheck hard and play with speed in all three zones, the Jets have big-bodied forwards with skill and the ability to protect pucks in the offensive zone, which leads to prolonged shifts and a lot of chasing for the opposition. Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little are one of the more underrated top lines in the NHL, and they will have the Blue Jackets’ full attention on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.

Rookie Nikolaj Ehlers has made an instant impact with four goals and eight points, while secondary offense comes from Mathieu Perreault, Drew Stafford and Mark Schiefele, all of who have at least seven points in the Jets’ first 10 games.

One of John Tortorella’s philosophies is to not worry as much about the opponent as he does his own team, instead getting his team prepared to attack and play on its toes rather than look for specific tendencies. Both the Blue Jackets and Jets play a similar style and are built alike, setting up for a fast-paced, physical game – one that both clubs will be up for.

Winnipeg’s forwards are fast and skilled, but so are its defensemen. Dustin Byfuglien is the most notable name, and he commands respect (particularly on the power play with his heavy point shot). Tyler Myers was a big addition for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, adding a mobile right-handed shot to go along with first-rounder Jacob Trouba on the back end.

Aside from a lopsided result, the last time the Blue Jackets and Jets met, Columbus lost more than just a hockey game.

Winnipeg jumped on the Blue Jackets early, scoring goals at 1:08 and 6:06 of the opening period, taking a 2-0 lead and added two more in the second for a commanding lead through two periods at MTS Centre. Columbus couldn’t get anything going, at times overwhelmed by the Jets’ forecheck and doing itself no favors with a litany of turnovers.

That wasn’t all: Sergei Bobrovsky was injured in the second period, and the resulting injury forced him to miss the 2015 NHL All-Star weekend festivities held in Columbus.

With each passing game, the confidence seems to grow for the guy they call “Wild Bill.”

Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella can’t find enough minutes for Karlsson, who started the season in spot duty on the wing, but since the coaching change, his game has found another level.

He’s making the simple, smart plays at 5-on-5 and has meshed well with Boone Jenner and Matt Calvert. Tortorella has given Karlsson plenty of time on the penalty kill, and the young Swede has shown no hesitation in getting into shooting lanes, sacrificing his body to make a play and get the puck out of danger.

That leaves the offensive zone, where the Blue Jackets have struggled on the whole recently. Karlsson’s sound positional game and subtle playmaking ability should lead to increased production if his game remains as consistent as it’s been the first two weeks of the season.

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