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PRE GAME: vs. Tampa Bay

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets



Based on today's morning skate, the Blue Jackets will make a few tweaks to their lineup before they face the Tampa Bay Lightning at Nationwide Arena. Derek Dorsett, who dodged a bullet with his lower-body injury, will return tonight as confirmed by coach Scott Arniel.

Steve Mason is the expected starting goaltender for Columbus, and he faces his former battery mate in Mathieu Garon, who will be in net for the Lightning. Aaron Johnson and Dane Byers are slated to be scratched for tonight’s game, as well.

Here is the projected Lightning lineup for tonight’s game at Nationwide Arena:

Malone Stamkos Downie
Pyatt Lecavalier Moore
Tyrell Thompson Hall
Shannon Jones Purcell
Hedman Brewer
Clark Kubina
Gervais Bergeron
  1. Get back to the forecheck: The Blue Jackets got away from their trademark forecheck against the Los Angeles Kings, and it cost them a lot of puck-possession time. Arniel talked about the Kings’ “left-wing lock” formation, and how it forces teams to manage the puck differently – same goes tonight against Tampa Bay’s “1-3-1” alignment, which has drawn a lot of attention lately. A more aggressive forecheck will go a long way for Columbus tonight.
  2. Use your scouting report: With Garon in goal, the Blue Jackets should have a pretty good idea of where/how to shoot the puck to create offense. The key to getting chances on Garon is to make him give up rebounds and have to deal with outnumbered situations around the net. He’s athletic post-to-post, but has a tendency to give up big rebounds.
  3. Beware the Stammer: Stamkos has one of the best shots in the game, and the Blue Jackets have to be aware of where he is at all times. Whether it’s on the power play or at even strength, Stamkos doesn’t need a lot of time or space to get his shot away.

Boucher, on the play of Garon: “(Dwayne Roloson) is not having the best stretch of his career, he’ll be the first one to say that. What it means is that Mathieu’s had to log a lot of those minutes in games. I know Rollie’s going to get back into his game, every player has one of those. Stamkos had one of those moments last year, and now Rollie’s having his moment. He’s Rollie’s going to bounce back and probably at the perfect time. For Garon, it means he’s had a lot of ice time and a lot of responsibility for us.”

Arniel on playing against the Lightning’s unique system: : “We’ve seen teams play it against us already this year. It’s no different than any other system; once players have an idea about things you don’t want to do – you’re going to run into traffic and where all their bodies are positioned. Once you get it figured it out, it’s no different. You always have to look for a game plan no matter what you’re doing. We have to be aware of how we have to transition against those guys in that system. We have some things we want to do (against Tampa Bay), and hopefully we’ll be able to execute it.”

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

• Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for the 7:00 p.m. puck drop.

• Get to your seats early and help the Blue Jackets and NHL celebrate Vinny Prospal’s 1000th game. Look for a pre-game ceremony honoring Vinny and the huge milestone he passed at the Nov. 25th game.

• Looking for some extra cash for your holiday shopping? Tonight is another opportunity to support the CBJF 50/50 raffle. For only $1, you can purchase a raffle ticket for the chance to win the night’s pot. Tonight’s raffle benefits the Peggy McConnell Arts Center.

• 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.

• Have you gotten your picture with Santa (Stinger)? Stop by section 115 tonight and get your picture taken for only $10, with proceeds benefiting the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation.

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