DETROIT -- The Blue Jackets are quite familiar with the Red Wings, having been Central Division rivals for some time before last year's conference realignment.
GAME DAY CENTRAL
But regardless of how well one might know a certain opponent or how frequently they meet, one thing never changes about the Detroit Red Wings: they're a dangerous offensive team that plays the five-man game better than any team in the NHL.
They are perennial Stanley Cup contenders for a reason, said Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson, and that's what makes each game against them so much fun.
Not unlike Saturday's game against the Boston Bruins, the Blue Jackets have another litmus test tonight at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings are playing well and with a bolstered offense, they have even more weapons to make teams pay attention to.
"Against a team like Detroit, it's always the guy without the puck that's the dangerous guy," Johnson told BlueJackets.com after today's morning skate. "They're a great passing team and they get everyone involved. We have to be aware of everyone on the ice, and obviously they have arguably the two best forwards in the game.
"Zetterberg and Datsyuk still drive their team, so if you can deprive them of the puck, you force it into someone else's hands and make them beat you. It's kind of common sense, right? You don't let their best player beat you or else you're asking for it. Their depth is what makes them so good."
With recent success against Detroit fresh in their minds, the Blue Jackets begin a new chapter against the Red Wings as members of the Eastern Conference tonight.
Columbus (2-2-0) is unbeaten on the road but winless at home, and the Red Wings (4-2-0) have done a little bit of both in their first six games.
And it doesn't matter where either team sits in the standings, Johnson said: the Blue Jackets relish the challenge of playing the league's elite teams and they are games that no one needs extra motivation for.
"It's a challenge, and it's a fun challenge," Johnson said. "They're kind of the model franchise in the NHL.
"No one ever has any problem getting up to play the Red Wings and I know prior to last year, they'd kind of had Columbus' number a little bit. Last year, we really had them circled on our calendars."