It has been nearly three weeks since the Blue Jackets last played a home game at Nationwide Arena, and they are back at it tonight against a rejuvenated Minnesota Wild team. After a nearly-devastating stretch that could have damaged their playoff hopes a month ago, the Wild are back to playing solid hockey and enter tonight’s game in Columbus with a 3-1-1 record in their last five games.
Curtis Sanford was the first goaltender off the ice after the Blue Jackets morning skate, indicating he is the starter tonight vs. the Wild. Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo is expected to start Nicklas Backstrom in goal, who is 9-3-1 lifetime against Columbus.
Blue Jackets rookie Ryan Johansen is slated to be a healthy scratch tonight, as interim head coach Todd Richards wants to keep the group intact that produced back-to-back solid efforts in southern California. Colton Gillies will play his first game against the Wild since being waived on Jan. 13.
Here is the expected Blue Jackets lineup for tonight’s game:
|LW ||C ||RW |
|Umberger ||Brassard ||Nash |
|Gillies ||Carter ||Prospal |
|Vermette ||Pahlsson ||Dorsett |
|Russell ||MacKenzie ||Boll |
|LD ||RD |
|Tyutin ||Johnson |
|Methot ||Moore |
|Clitsome ||Savard |
- Establish the tempo early: It’s never easy to come back from a long road trip and get your legs going right away, but the Blue Jackets must avoid a sluggish start like they had last week in San Jose. The key to doing so is finishing their checks, being active between the blue lines and using their speed.
- Get the forecheck going: This is the Blue Jackets’ bread and butter, and they have to make sure it’s a part of tonight’s game from the outset. The Wild like to play a patient game in their own end, so attacking their defense and creating turnovers will lead to scoring opportunities for Columbus.
- Traffic in front of the goalie: Backstrom is a quick, athletic goaltender but as the saying goes – it’s hard to stop what you cannot see. The Blue Jackets need to put bodies in front of Backstrom in all situations, and not just when they have a man advantage. Taking away the goaltender’s sightlines will help get the red light turned on.
Gillies on being with the Blue Jackets and facing his former team tonight: "I think it's a big opportunity, and we have a few games left. You never what's going to happen next year, so I'm trying to make the best of it right now. (With my linemates Carter and Prospal) I try to get them the puck, get in on the forecheck and make things easy for those guys."
Richards on what the Blue Jackets need to do in order to win: "We can’t fall into the comfort slumber. Sometimes you have a little more focus on the road, because you know you have to be ready to play. We have to be prepared and focused right off the start. We have to make it hard on (Backstrom) to see pucks and move around. The team is really committed to playing in front of him, and they don’t make it easy in that area of the ice."
AT THE ARENA VS. MINNESOTA
Here are some tips for fans attending the game at Nationwide Arena tonight:
• Doors will open tonight at 6:00 p.m. for the 7:00 p.m. puck drop.
•The Blue Jackets take the ice around 6:30 p.m. for pre-game warm-ups. Interested in their pre-game play list? Check out the scoreboard or follow @CBJ_DJ on twitter.
•Don’t forget to stop by The Blueline tonight before or during the game. Pick up your favorite CBJ merchandise – many of it on sale! Two locations are available, one at the Front Street entrance or one on the AEP Power Level.
• Stay tuned during the first period tonight – Logan and Molly, two of the pediatric cancer heroes walking in the Black Tie Blue Jackets Style Show, will be in the house. Want more information on them and the show? Head to www.blacktiebluejackets.org