BLUE JACKETS (2-5-0) vs. CANUCKS (5-3-1)
SUNDAY, 6 P.M. | NATIONWIDE ARENA
Let's get this one out of the way first: Curtis McElhinney is expected to make his Blue Jackets debut today, and start in goal for Columbus against Vancouver. Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said earlier this week that he wanted to get McElhinney, who hasn't made an appearance for the Jackets, a start in one of the Jackets' back-to-back games this weekend and it appears Sunday will be the day.
The Canucks, who block a lot of shots under coach John Tortorella, reportedly came out of their Saturday matinee in Pittsburgh unscatched. Roberto Luongo played pretty well for Vancouver but it's not yet known whether he will make the back-to-back start. If not Luongo, the Canucks will go with young Swedish back-up Eddie Lack against the Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets got Marian Gaborik back in the lineup on Saturday night against the Capitals, but they aren't likely to have the services of Nick Foligno, who remained in Columbus throughout the week tending to a personal matter. Jack Skille was recalled from Springfield on Saturday morning and Sean Collins was re-assigned, giving Richards another option up front if he wants to make a change.
Perhaps the best thing is to get back on home ice if you're the Blue Jackets.
They have dropped four straight games after a 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals last night at Verizon Center and did not have much going after falling behind 2-0 in the second period. Rather than make things interesting, Columbus dug itself a deeper hole with back-to-back goals from Brooks Laich and Alex Ovechkin in the third period. The Blue Jackets, already walking a fine line when it comes to scoring goals, gave the NHL's best power play more than enough ammunition and Washington tallied twice on the man advantage.
Columbus faces a Canucks team today that held a third-period lead on Saturday in Pittsburgh, but that lead lasted all of a few seconds. After Zack Kassian re-directed a point shot to give Vancouver a 3-2 lead at CONSOL Energy Center, the Canucks made a mistake in the offensive zone on the very next shift, and they did so with Sidney Crosby's line on the ice. The ensuing 3-on-2 rush led to defenseman Olli Maatta's first career goal, batting in a rebound between the pads of Roberto Luongo to make it a 3-3 game.
The Canucks would drop the game in the shootout, a 4-3 final, and arrived in Columbus on Saturday evening.
For the Blue Jackets, the question is how do they respond? How can they put this four-game skid in the rear-view mirror and get back on track with a home-heavy schedule on the horizon? It's rather imperative that they reverse the current trend with a home-ice win on Sunday afternoon and get the ball rolling in the other (and more positive) direction.
VS. NEW JERSEY DEVILS
TUESDAY, 7 P.M.