BLUE JACKETS (6-14-3) at CANUCKS (13-9-1)
: FS-O, SNET-P
: Columbus 4-4-2; Vancouver 7-3-0.
: This is the second of four meetings this season between teams that will meet again in two weeks in Columbus. They last met on Oct. 10 in Columbus. That night, the Blue Jackets took a 2-1 lead into the third period before Cody Hodgson
and Alexandre Burrows
scored to give Vancouver a 3-2 win.
: Winners of their last four games, Vancouver is one of the League's hottest teams. The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, have rebounded nicely from a horrid start that saw them go 2-9-1 in October.
Without making any major changes, the Blue Jackets have gone 3-1-2 in their last six games and earned a point in five straight games for the first time since February. Since a run in which they went 1 for 20 with the man advantage, the Jackets have converted 8 of 39 power play opportunities. They've also allowed a mere 16 goals in their last eight games.
Vancouver's 1-3-0 start the season, with their lone win coming against Columbus, had some people talking about a potential Stanley-Cup hangover. But the defending President's Trophy winners have gone 7-2-0 in their last nine thanks to the goaltending of Corey Schneider, who has allowed three goals in his last four games.
: Columbus' recent turnaround can be attributed mostly to the play of goaltender Curtis Sanford
, who stepped into the starting spot after Steve Mason
was sidelined with an injury. The 32-year-old veteran with more than 200 AHL games under his belt has allowed only nine goals and gone 3-1-2 in six starts since Nov. 17.
His first regulation loss since assuming the starting spot came Sunday night against the Blues. Against St. Louis, the Jackets Derek Dorsett
opened the scoring in the second period but former Jacket Kris Russell tied the game with just eight seconds remaining in the period. David Backes mustered the only goal of the third period, handing Columbus a 2-1 loss.
: Much like the Jackets, Vancouver's current four-game win streak has been sparked by a backup goalie. With Roberto Luongo
out with an injury, Schneider's tenure as the starting goaltender got off to a tough start when he allowed five goals on 27 shots Nov. 16 against Chicago. But he's been virtually unbeatable since then.
Since that loss, Schneider has gone 4-0-0 and allowed just three goals, a run that earned him the Second Star of the Week distinction. After earning back-to-back road shutouts over Colorado and Phoenix, Schneider may have saved his best performance for Saturday night in San Jose. His 43 saves led the charge as two goals in the second period gave Vancouver a 3-2 lead to end their three-game road swing.
: The recently-promoted goaltenders have been riding a hot hand for both teams, but the Jackets' Fedor Tyutin
has four points in his last five games while Rick Nash
, Jeff Carter
, and James Wisniewski
all have five points in their last five games. … For the Canucks, Henrik Sedin
has 10 points in his last nine games and Ryan Kesler
has five points in his current four-game point streak.
: Mason is expected back this week for Columbus, but Kristian Huselius
(pectoral), Mark Dekanich
(ankle), and Radek Martinek
(concussion) remain on IR. … Luongo remains out of the Canucks lineup, along with Aaron Rome
(thumb) and Alex Edler (shoulder). Andrew Ebbett
(foot) remains on IR although Mason Raymond is expected back in the lineup after missing the entire season with a fractured vertebrae.
: They rarely enjoyed a lead through the first six weeks of their season, but the Blue Jackets have proven surprisingly clutch when playing from ahead. The club is 4-1-0 when leading after one period and 5-1-0 when leading after two periods, their lone loss coming against the Canucks in October.
: Schneider's performance since being pressed into starting duty shouldn't be surprising. While Luongo got most of the ink last season as the Canucks' starter, Schneider posted a 16-4-2 record for Vancouver with a .929 save percentage and 2.23 goals against average. He’s actually outdone those stellar statistics so far this season, with a .931 save percentage and 2.02 goals against average. His two shutouts last week are already more than he had all of last season.