BLUE JACKETS (5-1-0) at FLAMES (5-2-1)
This is the second of four meetings between the teams this season. Last Tuesday in Columbus, former Flames Anton Stralman and Kristian Huselius
capitalized on a two-man advantage during the second period to lead the Blue Jackets to a 2-1 victory. Steve Mason
made 22 saves.
After making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 2009, the Blue Jackets have carried that momentum into the new season by getting off to the best start in franchise history. With Mason between the pipes and captain Rick Nash
leading the way up front, Columbus is poised to make back-to-back postseason appearances.
Goaltending and defense is giving Columbus a chance to win every night. Ken Hitchcock's club enters Tuesday's action having only allowed two goals in its last three games. In their first seven games, the Blue Jackets have also surrendered only one power-play goal in 24 chances.
"These guys are coming in and putting a big effort up and they make my job easier," said Mason, who won the Calder Trophy last season as the NHL's top rookie.
Inconsistent defensive play has plagued Calgary in the early going. The Flames dropped a 6-5 overtime decision to the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 12 after surrendering a 5-0 lead at the United Center. And although Calgary has tightened up defensively in its last two games and is coming off a 5-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night, the Flames had a 5-0 lead in that one, too.
Nonetheless, coach Brent Sutter believes progress is being made.
"You're seeing a lot of good things … a lot of positive things," Sutter said after Friday's win. "The emotion level is there and the intensity level is there. When that's there, it's a good start."
Mason is 4-1-0 with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. … Blue Jackets forward Raffi Torres is tied for second in the League with three power-play goals. For Calgary, forward Rene Bourque
leads the team with nine points (4 goals, 5 assists). He and defenseman Dion Phaneuf each have two power-play tallies.
Blue Jackets forward Fredrik Modin is expected to miss another month with a sprained right knee, while defenseman Mike Commodore is day-to-day with a strained groin. Jan Hejda, another blueliner, is out 4-6 weeks with a sprained right knee.
Flames forward David Moss
is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury.
Since being shut out on opening night, Nash has collected a point in his last five games and is tied for ninth in the League in scoring with 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in six games. He registered multi-point games in four consecutive contests before notching one point against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Calgary sure doesn't mind playing opponents within the Northwest Division. Four of the Flames' five victories have come against Edmonton and Vancouver.
If Calgary is going to contend for the Western Conference title this season, it's going to need more from star forwards Jarome Iginla
and Olli Jokinen
. The two failed to develop much chemistry earlier this month and have since been separated. In eight games, Iginla has only two goals, while Jokinen has one.
-- Brian Compton, NHL.com