by John Carlisle, bluejackets.com
The number “3” is significant as the Columbus Blue Jackets head to the Savvis Center in St. Louis Saturday for their third clash of the year with the Blues. Ken Hitchcock, the third admiral of the season for the CBJ, stands at 3-3-0 in his tenure as head coach. Beloved enforcer Jody Shelley will suit up for his 300th career NHL game. But most importantly, a win Saturday means the Jackets will have strung together three straight wins, a feat they have yet to accomplish this season.
Live coverage on FSN Ohio begins with IceBreaker, the pre-game show, at 7:30 p.m. and includes the Blue Jackets Ice Cap post-game show immediately following the game.
Wrapping up a five-game road trip, Columbus (8-16-2) has a chance to post a winning record for that stretch. Thanks to superb goaltending from rookie Fredrik Norrena, the CBJ pitched a pair of shutouts in road wins over Edmonton and Colorado, bringing Columbus to 2-2 on their western excursion. Norrena’s no-no against Edmonton was the first of his NHL career.
In the shutouts, Norrena turned away 63 shots, 42 of them off the sticks of the Avalanche. Should he get the start in net Saturday, Norrena would need to shut down St. Louis (7-16-4) for a little over a period and a half to eclipse Ron Tugnutt’s club record of 153:58 seconds without allowing a goal. No CBJ goalie has ever accomplished three consecutive shutout wins.
As for Shelley’s milestone Saturday, his career wearing the CBJ sweater has been an entertaining one. Known for on-ice tenacity and off-ice kindness, Shelley's career numbers of 10-17-27 may not dazzle anyone, but his staggering 896 PIM reflects his never-back-down style of hockey.
Two significant “threes” are the ones worn on the back of No. 33, Fredrik Modin. The swift-swinging Swede returned to action Tuesday against the Avalanche after missing three games with an injured groin. He scored one of the Jackets three goals, giving him seven for the season and tying him for the team lead with Rick Nash.
Earlier this year, the Jackets pinned a 4-2 defeat on the Blues on their home ice with Dan Fritsche lighting the lamp twice. The trends bode well for Fritsche, whose five points in the past two games make him one of the contributors to the Jackets’ offensive rejuvenation. Anson Carter has carried a hot stick, too, by posting four points in the two wins. Jason Chimera earned a goal and an assist in the past two games, and Ron Hainsey chipped in a goal and two assists over the past three.
A win would also mean the beginning of an ascent through the division standings for the CBJ. Both St. Louis and Columbus have 18 standings points with neither wanting to stay in the cold, dark cellar of the Western Conference’s Central Division. A standings climb clearly would mark that the Blue Jackets are turning things around under Hitchcock.
Unlike the CBJ, the Blues are sliding in the opposite direction. With six straight losses, St. Louis, fresh off a 4-3 overtime defeat to the Detroit Red Wings, currently owns the longest skid in the Western Conference. Over that span, the Blues have collected only 11 goals and have allowed 23.
Another significant number for Saturday night’s contest, the number 2 as in two games, the punishment the NHL dealt out to Blues forward Dallas Drake on Friday after delivering a hit to the head area of Detroit’s Brett Lebda the night before. As a result, Drake will not suit up for this game.
But all numbers aside, the most significant letter is “W.”