What a difference a year makes.
Last season, Pascal Leclaire split Blue Jackets goaltending duties with Marc Denis, who was dealt to Tampa Bay over the summer for Fredrik Modin.
His counterpart in the net, Roberto Luongo, was wearing a different jersey for a different team in a different conference, being dealt from Florida to Vancouver this summer.
The man that can say he coached them both, Clint Malarchuk, now works for Gerard Gallant’s staff in Columbus after being the Panthers’ goaltending coach in 2005-06.
The trio’s storyline will play out on the ice at Nationwide Arena as the Jackets host the Vancouver Canucks at 7 p.m. on Friday night.
The Canucks will open their season on Thursday night, facing the Detroit Red Wings before concluding the back-to-back at Columbus on Friday. Vancouver suffered through a very disappointing 2005-06 campaign, finishing ninth in the Western Conference, three points behind eventual conference champion the Edmonton Oilers.
As a result, there was a major overhaul in Vancouver, dismissing coach Marc Crawford and replacing him with Alain Vigneault. Of course there was the five-player trade that sent right wing Todd Bertuzzi to the Florida Panthers for Luongo. The Canucks also did not resign D Ed Jovanovski and RW Anson Carter.
One mainstay for the Canucks is left wing Marcus Naslund, who has led the team in scoring for seven straight seasons. The swift Naslund scored 32 goals and added 47 assists in 81 games last season.
The Canucks loss, however, turned out to be the Jackets gain as Carter signed with the Jackets just before training camp. Last year, Carter skated with the Sedin twins and set a career high with 33 goals for the Canucks.
On his left wing will be the aforementioned Modin, a two-time 30-goal scorer, whose acquisition cleared the path for Leclaire to be the No. 1 goaltender in CBUS. Leclaire, last season, posted an 11-15-3 mark with a 3.23 GAA, recording 40 or more saves six times, which was tied with Mike Richter for the most by a rookie goaltender since 1990-91.
Most importantly, the Jackets boast a healthy Rick Nash, who was sidelined for most of the first half of the season with ankle and knee injuries but still managed to score 31 goals.
The Jackets went 1-3-0 vs. Vancouver in 2005-06, winning 6-5 on Jan. 24. The Jackets are 5-13-3 in the all-time series vs. the Canucks, including 3-5-2 at home.
As always, Huntington Green Seats will be available for tonight's game and every game during the 2006-07 season. The Huntington Green Seats are 250 seats that are priced at $10 for every home game this season and are available only at the Nationwide Arena Ticket Office, two hours prior to game time. For tonight's game each person may purchase a maximum of four seats.
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