BLUE JACKETS (10-23-5) at SHARKS (21-11-4)
TV: FS-Ohio (HD); CSN-California (HD)
LAST 10: Columbus 2-7-1; San Jose 6-1-3
Season Series: The Western Conference rivals are playing the opener of their four-game season series, three of which will be played this month. They split four games last season.
Big Story: The Jackets, last in the overall standings, open a California trip with a stop in San Jose, where the Sharks are back home after completing a two-game road sweep with a 3-1 win at Anaheim that moved them back into first place in the Pacific Division.
Blue Jackets: 2011 ended on an awful note for Columbus, which blew a 2-0 third-period lead against Washington on New Year's Eve and lost 4-2, disappointing a sellout crowd of 18,199. It was yet another game in which the Jackets went home with nothing after they were unable to hold a lead.
"We can't dwell on what 2011 left us," goaltender Curtis Sanford told BlueJackets.com. "We can make sure we come prepared to start 2012 off right what's in the past now is in the past.
"We have to keep moving forward and keep on a positive track, and do ourselves a favor and get back into things."
Sharks: San Jose had lost all three meetings with Anaheim this season and looked like it might be on the way to No. 4 when two goals in 27 seconds late in the second period turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. Brad Winchester and Benn Ferriero scored against Jonas Hiller, who had been 5-0-0 in his last five starts against the Sharks.
"We realized it's very, very difficult to score on this guy," said captain Joe Thornton, whose third-period blast turned into a rebound goal by Joe Pavelski in the third period. "That first one by him got us some confidence. I don't know if it was 30 seconds after but we bang another one in. Huge momentum swing for us."
Who's Hot: Columbus captain Rick Nash has three points in his last two games and leads the team with 12 goals and 27 points. … Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi allowed three goals in this week's road wins at Vancouver and San Jose, and is 3-1-1 while allowing just 10 goals in his last five starts.
Injury Report: The Jackets are without defenseman James Wisniewski (broken ankle). Mark Methot is day-to-day with an ankle injury. Kristian Huselius (groin) and Radek Martinek (concussion) are on IR. … For San Jose, Jose's Colin White (lower body), Martin Havlat (left hamstring surgery) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body) are on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: HP Pavilion has never been a pleasant place for the Jackets to visit. The Sharks are 17-1-2 all-time against the Blue Jackets at the Shark Tank. … Nash has six goals in his last five games at San Jose, including a hat trick last season. … Columbus has been outscored 52-26 in the third period this season.
Pick Drop: With the playoff realistically a near-impossibility, the Blue Jackets figure to give extended auditions to 2009 first-round pick John Moore, a defenseman, and 2010 first-rounder Ryan Johansen, a center. Johansen has been playing on the top line with Nash and Jeff Carter, while Moore has been getting more playing time -- a situation that should continue with Wisniewski out for at least another month.
"Life's good on the first line," a smiling Johansen told BlueJackets.com. "Carter and Nash are two of the elite players in this League, and they've proved that to people over the years. For me, being a 19-year-old rookie and not even halfway through my first season yet, to be playing with those two is pretty special.
Moore scored against Washington but knows his primary job is still to help keep the puck out of his own team's net
Moore wants to ensure this opportunity becomes permanent by playing a complete game and putting his own zone first.
"It's definitely an opportunity, but you've got to be confident out there and can't second-guess yourself," he said. "Especially going on the road here, the other team will have last change and be able to control the matchups.