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PRE-GAME vs. Phoenix

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets
Aaron Johnson

Winners of back-to-back games and now coming home to face a determined Phoenix Coyotes team, the Blue Jackets are expected to keep their lineup intact from their recent road trip. Ryan Johansen is slated to sit out tonight’s game, and Aaron Johnson will play a second straight game on right wing with Darryl Boyce and Ryan Russell.

Steve Mason is the starting goaltender for the Blue Jackets and, like the team, is seeking his first three-game winning streak of the season. The Coyotes have lost three consecutive games and fallen out of the Pacific Division lead with last night’s 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh. Because Phoenix did not skate this morning, it is not known whether Mike Smith gets the start on the back-to-back set, or if head coach Dave Tippett will turn to Jason LaBarbera.

Here is the expected Coyotes lineup for tonight’s game:

Whitney Hanzal Vrbata
Korpikoski Gordon Doan
Pyatt Vermette Boedkar
Bissonnette Langkow Torres
Yandle Aucoin
Ekman-Larsson Roszival
Summers Rundblad

  1. Let the good times roll: The Blue Jackets’ power play has given them a significant offensive boost lately, and their recent 14-for-56 clip is a game-changer at crucial times. They need to take advantage of opportunities given to them by the Coyotes, who are playing their second game in as many nights.
  2. Get into the game early: Sometimes, the most difficult games to play are those immediately following a road trip. Columbus had a travel day Sunday and a day off on Monday to regroup and get energized for tonight, so starting the game “on time” is a must to have success against a Coyotes club that plays very well with the lead.
  3. Make the goaltender uncomfortable: Columbus did well on its two-game road swing to get opposing goaltenders unnerved. Semyon Varlamov couldn’t shake off two slap shot goals by the Blue Jackets, and Smith never recovered after Rick Nash scored a highlight-reel goal to make it 2-0. The same can be said for tonight’s game, regardless of which name suits up between the pipes for Phoenix.

Jack Johnson, on playing the Coyotes twice in four days:
“You know what to expect, so in that sense it’s a good thing. Phoenix is a good hockey team and they have a lot of talent up front, and some defensemen that can jump up in the play and make a difference. We’ve been playing some good hockey as of late, and we’re in the position to go out, play loose and have fun. Their backs are against the wall and we’re expecting them to play hard.”

Todd Richards on the Blue Jackets’ mentality: “I think there are times with different teams where you come into games hoping to win. I think we’re at a stage now where we’re expecting to win, which is a big difference. It comes from confidence and how you’re playing the games.”

Here are some tips for fans attending the game at Nationwide Arena tonight:

• Doors will open tonight at 6:00 p.m. for the 7:08 p.m. puck drop.

• It’s another $10,000 Tuesday! Tonight’s prize is perfect for your away-game viewing – a Big Screen TV! Text TUESDAY to 95323 to enter and follow the prompts during the game.

• Love the song but have no idea what it is? Give @CBJ_DJ a follow on twitter. He live tweets all of Nationwide’s musical selections throughout the game.

• Get St. Patrick’s Day ready at the Blue Line. Stop in to the store at the Front Street entrance for green t-shirts to sport your Irish pride. After all, you need a t-shirt to match your beer!

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