The Blue Jackets’ blue line has been hit hard by injury in the last few months, but they are starting to get healthy players back in the lineup. That trend continues tonight vs. the Sharks, as Nikita Nikitin was activated off injured reserve this afternoon and will play tonight. On the other side of the injury front, the bad news is that James Wisniewski will miss a second straight game due to a lower-body injury suffered Saturday vs. Chicago.
Interim head coach Todd Richards said Wisniewski knows his body best, and wants to be sure he is 100 percent ready to go before he gets back in the lineup. Nikitin’s addition is huge for Columbus, as he’s a big body who plays a lot of minutes on the back end. He will be paired with Fedor Tyutin for tonight’s game. Steve Mason is the starting goaltender tonight for the Blue Jackets, and he will go opposite Antti Niemi for San Jose.
Ryan Russell appears to be the odd-man out up front tonight, meaning Ryan Johansen is likely to skate with Derek MacKenzie and Colton Gillies.
Here is the expected Sharks lineup for tonight’s game:
|LW ||C ||RW |
|Wingels ||Thornton ||Pavelski |
|Marleau ||Couture ||Clowe |
|McGinn ||Moore ||Ferriero |
|Winchester ||Handzus ||Dejardins |
|LD ||RD |
|White ||Boyle |
|Vandermeer ||Burns |
|Demers ||Braun |
- Out-work the Sharks down low: The Sharks' stable of big, speedy forwards are most effective when they get deep in the offensive zone and start the cycle. The Blue Jackets’ task will be to shut off the cycle and exit their own end as quickly as possible.
- Bodies in front of Niemi: : In order to beat the top goaltenders in the NHL (see: Henrik Lundqvist on Sunday), the key is to overwhelm them with traffic in the scoring area. Columbus had success against the New York Rangers – a good shot-blocking team – by getting in lanes and creating havoc around the net.
- Pump up the tempo: San Jose is a team that likes to skate for 60 minutes, and the only way to get in a close game with them is to keep pace. The Blue Jackets have shown the ability to place a high-tempo game, and it will be a requirement to roll four lines and keep their energy high tonight.
Todd Richards on the Sharks: "They're going to be ready to go. It's a big game for them, as far as where they are in the standings. They're going to come out and play their game - they're an attack team. They're big, fast, and they force you to play a fast game."
Richards, on welcoming Nikita Nikitin back to the lineup: "We'll get (the pair with he and Fedor Tyutin) back together. They're a good pair for us and logged some big minutes. He's a big body that defends well and moves the puck nicely up the ice."
AT THE ARENA VS. SAN JOSE
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, 20 lucky fans will win a $500 Marathon gas card. Look for the signs upon entering the arena, and text TUESDAY to 95323.
• 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.
• If you haven’t ventured to Chef’s Corner across from Section 108 – you’re missing signature sandwiches from the Nationwide Arena chef’s. The Chef’s make them to order – guaranteeing a delicious bite from start to finish.