FLAMES (3-3-0) at BLUE JACKETS (3-2-0)
TV: SNET-W (HD), FS-O (HD)
First of four meetings this season. The teams split their 2009-10 matchups, each winning once in its opponent's home building. Columbus gained an extra point in a 4-3 shootout loss on Nov. 28. Goal scoring was spread around, with 11 different Flames and 10 different Blue Jackets lighting the lamp. Calgary's Curtis Glencross
and Columbus captain Rick Nash
were the only players to score 2 goals in the series.
Looking for a fast start under first-year coach Scott Arniel, the Blue Jackets have won two straight and three of four. They started a stretch of four games in five at Nationwide Arena by beating the Ducks on Wednesday.
"We played well," forward Derek MacKenzie
said. "Do we have room to improve? Yeah. There were a few parts in the game where we took penalties. Those are things on some nights that are going to catch up to us. For the most part the guys had a gritty, hard-working game."
It's been hit or miss in the first half-dozen games when it comes to Calgary's offense. The Flames were shut out twice in their first three games, then recorded a 5-3 win over the Oilers last Saturday. They squeaked out a 1-0 overtime win over the Predators on Tuesday and got off to a fast start against the Red Wings on Thursday on a pair of Mikael Backlund
goals in the first period. But Detroit scored three unanswered to hand them a 4-2 defeat.
"I try not to get frustrated, but it's definitely not going as well as you'd hope," said captain Jarome Iginla
, who was held scoreless and has just 2 points this season. "There's been some tight games this year and I haven't been able to produce for the team and get on a roll and help out in that area."
Nash scored twice Wednesday, including an empty-net goal that sealed the 3-1 victory for Columbus, but Arniel's highest praise following the game was for goalie Steve Mason
. He stopped 31 shots and bounced back nicely from a loss to the Blackhawks in the Blue Jackets' home opener, a game in which Mason allowed 5 goals and was peppered with 40 shots.
"He was outstanding," Arniel told the Columbus Dispatch. "When you get goaltending like that, you have a chance to win every night. He was there to make the stops. He gave us a chance to move forward and get our game going, get off our heels."
Backlund was able to tie for the Flames' lead in goals with his first two of the season Thursday. The 21-year-old prospect had 1 goal in 29 career NHL games entering the night. … MacKenzie has goals in consecutive games for the Blue Jackets. Prior to that he had 3 goals in 67 games spread out over parts of eight seasons with the Thrashers and Jackets.
Calgary forward Raitis Ivanans
missed Thursday's game with a concussion, while defenseman Adam Pardy (shoulder) and forwards Daymond Langkow
(neck), Ryan Stone (knee), Ales Kotalik (knee) and David Moss
(shoulder) are all on injured reserve.
Columbus defensemen Anton Stralman (shoulder) and Kris Russell
(lower body) are day-to-day, while defenseman Mike Commodore (hand) and forwards Andrew Murray (knee) and Jared Boll
(back) are on injured reserve. Forward Ethan Moreau broke his hand against the Ducks and is out indefinitely.
The Flames are last in the NHL in scoring average at 1.83 goals per game, after finishing 29th in the League last season at 2.45. … The Blue Jackets have as many shorthanded goals as they've scored on the power play -- two apiece. Kristian Huselius
is responsible for both power-play tallies, while R.J. Umberger
has both shorthanded goals.
Columbus disappointed a capacity crowd on opening night with its effort in a 5-2 loss to Chicago, and a record-low crowd of 9,802 showed up for the victory over Anaheim. This is another opportunity for the team to make amends.
"Yeah, it was unfortunate we got embarrassed," Nash said, referring to the loss to Chicago. "The only way we're going to win them back is by winning games. That was a good start tonight."