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PRE GAME: at Detroit

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Greetings from the Motor City and Joe Louis Arena, where the Blue Jackets and Red Wings are set for their third of six meetings tonight. Both teams have completed their morning skates and spoke with the media, so let's get into the details of tonight’s Central Division showdown.

Curtis Sanford

Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards said defenseman Grant Clitsome will return to the lineup tonight after sitting out the previous five games. Newcomer Brett Lebda, who skated for the first time with his new team yesterday at Nationwide Arena, took today’s morning skate but Richards said he is not going to dress tonight.

There was also positive news on the injury front, as R.J. Umberger took part in the full skate with his teammates. Since suffering an upper-body injury on Jan. 8 at Anaheim, Umberger has missed four straight games but is looking forward to a possible return this week.

Curtis Sanford is expected to start in goal for the Blue Jackets tonight opposite the red-hot Jimmy Howard for the Red Wings. Detroit has won 15 consecutive games at home and are 18-2-1 overall at The Joe this season.

Richards said the Blue Jackets plan to go with this lineup tonight: 

Prospal Vermette Nash
Johansen Brassard Kubalik
Russell Pahlsson Dorsett
Gillies MacKenzie Boll
Tyutin Nikitin
Methot Moore
Johnson Clitsome

On the flip side, here is the projected Red Wings lineup tonight: 

Franzen Datsyuk Bertuzzi
Filppula Zetterberg Hudler
Abdelkader Emmerton Holmstrom
Miller Helm Cleary
Lidstrom White
Kronwall Stuart
Kindl Ericsson
  1. Manage the puck: Richards talked at length about “being smart” tonight against a Red Wings team that is among the best at creating and capitalizing on turnovers. The Blue Jackets must be alert in the neutral zone and avoid turnovers between the blue lines, because Detroit can turn them into transition opportunities in the blink of an eye.
  2. Start on time: Especially on the road and in a tough building, the Blue Jackets have to be ready to go right off the bat. Scoring first would be huge, and building early momentum on the Red Wings will go a long way toward a successful result tonight.
  3. Team speed: The Blue Jackets have shown their ability to get up and down the ice with teams all season long, and when playing the Red Wings, team speed is far more important in the defensive zone and on the back-check. Matching Detroit stride-for-stride and playing at even strength will benefit the Blue Jackets in a big way.

Richards on how to be successful against the Red Wings:
"To me, it's how we manage the puck. They’re a transition team that plays fast, they have guys that are very good with their sticks as far as stripping pucks – either knocking them down in the air or coming behind you and stealing them. Especially early in the game, maybe just chip-outs or chip-ins…we’ve got to be smart about how we're playing."

Richards on using a young second line for tonight's game: "As a coach, you have to trust your players. You have to see what they can do and see if they can handle it. If they can't handle it, then I'm going to have make decisions and switch them up. Right now they're playing hard and playing good hockey, we'll give them the opportunity."

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