Two clubs under siege by the injury bug are hours away from doing battle at Nationwide Arena.
The Dallas Stars, without their No. 1 goaltender and a handful of key players (namely defensemen), come into tonight's game against the Blue Jackets after a 5-4 overtime loss last night in Nashville. It was a bad-luck loss, too; Jaromir Jagr broke his stick in the offensive zone and headed to the bench to get a replacement, but before he could rejoin the play, Sergei Kostitsyn found Roman Josi at the left point for the game-winning goal less than 30 seconds into the sudden death period.
Christopher Nilstorp, a 29-year-old rookie goaltender from Sweden, made the start in goal for Dallas last night and is expected to give way to Richard Bachman tonight in Columbus. Lehtonen took part in the Stars' morning skate, but according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, Lehtonen said he's not yet fit to play and is targeting a return on Thursday.
As for the Blue Jackets, well, their injury news isn't good. James Wisniewski suffered a broken bone in his foot during Sunday's game in Chicago and is looking at an "extended period" of time out the lineup. Jack Johnson, who was injured the night before in St. Louis, is looking at a week more of recovery time for his upper body injury.
Artem Anisimov is progressing and going through light workouts, coach Todd Richards said, and Brandon Dubinsky is skating on his own in recovering from a knee sprain.
Sergei Bobrovsky gets the call in net for the Blue Jackets tonight.
Here are my "three keys" to success for tonight's game:
1. JUMP START: We've seen it in previous games at Nationwide Arena -- the Blue Jackets need a fast start against a club that's in the midst of a road trip and played less than 24 hours ago. That means the same old recipe of getting in on the forecheck, being physical on the puck and away from the puck, and being an opportunistic team when the chances come their way.
2. SUSTAIN MOMENTUM: The first game back from a long road trip is always difficult, according to page 37 of the "oldest hockey cliches" manual (I made that last part up...not sure if the manual is actually a thing). But the Blue Jackets have to make the most of this extended stretch of home games and build some momentum, capitalize on it, and then sustain it. It begins with tonight's game against an opponent they beat here one month prior, and it will need to continue with nine of the next 10 games at Nationwide.
3. BEAR DOWN: Another one from the cliche column, but hey, it's applicable. Richards said he felt like a "broken record" because of the team's solid play in recent games but lack of the desired result, and at the end of the day, it comes down to finishing their chances. Whether it's on the power play, even strength or off a weird turnover, the Blue Jackets have to make teams pay when they make mistakes.