BLUE JACKETS (16-11-1) at FLAMES (12-15-3)
-- FS-O (HD), SNET-W (HD)
-- Columbus 4-5-1; Calgary 4-4-2.
– This is the second of four meetings between these Western-Conference opponents. Calgary came to Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Oct. 22 and earned a 6-2 victory courtesy of a Rene Bourque
hat trick. It's the Jackets' first visit this season to Scotiabank Saddledome, where they split a pair of games last season.
– After losing five in a row following a strong start to their season, Columbus has won two of its last three. That includes a 3-1 home victory over the Rangers in which captain Rick Nash
scored two late third-period goals. The Flames, on the other hand, continue to look for answers, having lost three of four following a Friday-night shootout loss in Anaheim.
– Columbus appeared to be headed to overtime against New York on Saturday. That all changed when Nash's shot from the corner squeezed past Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Nash, who set a franchise record that night for game played, followed his bizarre game-winner with the clinching goal when he deked out Lundqvist, who moments earlier had started skating towards the bench for an extra attacker.
Already enjoying the best start in their short history, Columbus was able to keep pace in a competitive Central Division. After the Red Wings' stellar performance, the remaining four teams are separated by two points.
"I knew he was a great player," Columbus' first-year coach Scott Arniel said of his captain. "I've noticed that he gets real upset when we don't win and don't play the way we can."
– Calgary's night in Anaheim was something of a good-news/bad-news experience. Two third-period goals allowed the Flames to force overtime after trailing 2-0. But Corey Perry's winner clinched a shootout victory for Anaheim. It was a tough finish following a close 2-1 loss in Los Angeles and a big 4-2 win over Tampa Bay.
Despite the positives drawn from these games, questions continue to swirl around the Flames. Forward Matt Stajan
, who is tied for the team lead in assists, was a healthy scratch in Anaheim and the Flames occupy the Western Conference basement with 27 points in 30 games.
"We got three points out of a possible six so I don't think we're jumping up and smiling," forward Olli Jokinen
, who has a goal in each of his past two games, said of the recent streak. "It's not about scoring goals or getting points but playing the way our coaches want."
– Nash leads the Jackets in goals, points, and shots and has registered six points in his last three games. Flames captain Jarome Iginla
is in the midst of a seven-game point streak in which he has three goals and six assists. He also has 17 points in his last 15 games.
– Calgary forward Daymond Langkow
remains out indefinitely with a neck injury while defenseman Steve Staios (upper body) and forward Raitis Ivanans
(concussion) are also on IR. … Columbus forward Kristian Huselius
has missed all but seven games this season with an ankle injury while forward Jared Boll
missed Saturday’s game against the Rangers with a lower-back injury.
–With one more assist, Nash will tie David Vyborny for the team's all-time lead. He is already the franchise leader in games, points, goals, and shots.
– There's no time like the present for the Flames to make a move in the standings. They open a three-game homestand against Columbus, after which they will play nine of their next 13 on the road.
"The bottom line is we're in a situation now where we can't have guys playing at 65, 70 per cent,” says Calgary coach Brent Sutter. "We need the full 100 per cent in every aspect of their game and within the team confines in how we play."