Todd Richards liked a lot of what the Blue Jackets did in their last meeting with the Detroit Red Wings.
It was opening night at Nationwide Arena in front of a sold-out crowd (and they expect the same tonight), and the Blue Jackets fought back from 2-0 down to take a third-period lead. The place was rocking, there was an abundance of energy up and down the lineup, and Columbus got saves at the right time from goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Similar story lines are in play tonight as the Blue Jackets look to get a little payback for that shootout loss on Jan. 21, and in the process, bounce back from a disappointing first-period effort on Thursday vs. St. Louis and get back in the win column. Richards is going with Steve Mason between the pipes after he pitched a shutout in relief of Bobrovsky on Thursday, and he's got some history on his side; the Red Wings seem to bring the best out of Mason and he's played well against them in his career.
Columbus will employ the same lineup used on Thursday, but the defense pairs are slightly adjusted. Fedor Tyutin is with David Savard, John Moore with James Wisniewski, and Jack Johnson pairs with Tim Erixon.
The Red Wings, once again, go with Jimmy Howard in net. He has started each of Detroit's games this season and has been a big part of their recent run. They're coming off a 5-3 win over the Blues last night at Joe Louis Arena and have been playing terrific hockey of late.
Here are my "three keys" to success for the Blue Jackets tonight:
1. Everyone on board: Hate to keep copying and pasting this one, but the Blue Jackets want to make sure this doesn't become a theme for them much longer. Their first 13 minutes against St. Louis were not very good, but the final two periods displayed their brand of hockey: aggressive, tight-checking, with better puck management. They'll need 12 forwards, six defensemen and their goaltender clocked in and ready to go tonight, and hopefully for a big first period against an opponent that played last night.
2. Tempo, tempo, tempo: It's the name of the game for the Red Wings. The key to dictating the game is to finish checks, take away their creativity and limit what they can do off the rush. Doing so takes them out of their element and off their game, and when they're chasing, they're a totally different team. If the Blue Jackets can use all four lines and get into a good flow, it could put stress on a Detroit team playing its second game in as many nights. Get pucks in deep, make the defense turn, and keep the skating legs fresh.
3. Score early: The Blue Jackets have had few chances to play with a lead this season, so getting out to a good start and scoring an early goal is a big key for them. It's easier to impose your will and play the "heavy" game if you're leading, rather than playing from behind and trying to score some goals, as well. The forecheck is crucial to that mentality; get an early one behind Howard, and keep putting the puck below the icing line and make them skate as much as possible.