Two teams looking for the same thing (consistency) meet tonight at Nationwide Arena, and both are battling injuries in the process.
Calgary must make do without No. 1 goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who was injured in the Flames' win over the Detroit Red Wings earlier this week. Leland Irving, who the organization thinks very highly of, gets the call between the pipes this evening and will be backed up by Danny Taylor. Flames coach Bob Hartley also said that Mike Cammalleri's status for the game is a game-time decision.
For the Blue Jackets, they get Nikita Nikitin back in the lineup and it's a significant addition to a blueline that has relied on four AHL call-ups in the wake of recent injuries. They're on the path to recovery, slowly but surely, and adding an all-situations defenseman like Nikitin will have an impact throughout the lineup.
Sergei Bobrovsky gets the start for the Blue Jackets tonight, and his only career game against Calgary was an overtime loss. His stats in that game: 1.85 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. Irving has never played a game against Columbus in his brief NHL career, in which he has compiled a record of 1-3-3 in eight starts.
Let's break down tonight's game, shall we?
1. Pucks to the net: The Blue Jackets have had their struggles lately with getting shots on goal and creating second and third opportunities, and in facing an inexperienced goaltender tonight, they'll need to reverse that trend quickly. That means shots from the point, from the walls, from the slot...anything to test Irving out of the gate. But the key is consistently having traffic in the shooting lanes and making it difficult to track the puck. If the Blue Jackets can do that from the outset and continue it through the game, I like their chances.
2. Check in, check out: The Flames have several skilled players that can change the game in an instant, and as we've mentioned several times in this space, the Blue Jackets have to limit their time and space with the puck. Calgary has two scoring lines with names like Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay, Cammalleri, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Backlund...all players who can make things happen in the offensive end if given the room to operate. Much like they did in the first period against Los Angeles, the Blue Jackets have to clamp down and finish checks -- then get their forecheck going in the opposite end.
3. Consistent, emotional effort: Todd Richards liked a lot of what the Blue Jackets did on Tuesday night, but a poor second period cost them the game. They were out-shot 17-2 in the second period and got off to a bad start with Anze Kopitar's goal just 32 seconds into the frame. As Richards has said repeatedly, if they're going to get to the next level and wear teams down on a nightly basis, they can't have 20-minute stretches like they did the other night. A complete commitment up and down the lineup is needed, and the first period against the Kings would be a good thing to replicate.