BLUE JACKETS (2-0-0) at SHARKS (1-2-0)
Season Series -- This is the first of four meetings this season. In 2008-09, each club won twice, both on home ice. Both of the Jackets' victories came in overtime, on goals by Christian Backman and R.J. Umberger. Kristian Huselius paced the Blue Jackets with 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) and Backman and Rick Nash scored 2 goals apiece. For the Sharks, Joe Thornton scored a series-high 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists), Patrick Marleau scored 3 goals and Devin Setoguchi added 2 goals. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov played every minute and was 2-0-2 with a 2.21 GAA.
Big Story -- Optimism reigns in Columbus as the Blue Jackets are off to a terrific start. The same thing can't be said in San Jose, where the powerful Sharks are off to a less-than-impressive 1-2-0 start (all on the road) in a season in which expectations are sky-high. On Tuesday, they fell behind to the Kings 4-0 before rallying to tie, only to lose 6-4.
This is also a matchup of two of the best left wings in the game in Columbus captain Rick Nash and San Jose newcomer Dany Heatley.
Blue Jackets -- Columbus is coming off a 5-3 win at Vancouver on Monday night in which it drove Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo, one of the best in the game, out of the net early in the second period, scoring four goals on 12 shots. The result is the Blue Jackets are 2-0-0 for the first time in the franchise’s history.
Goaltender Steve Mason is picking up right where he left off last season as the NHL’s Calder Trophy winner as Rookie of the Year. He is 2-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage, stopping 76 of 80 shots.
Last season, Mason led Columbus to its first playoff berth in franchise history. His 10 shutouts led the League and his 2.29 goals-against average ranked second to Tim Thomas of Boston.
Sharks -- Tonight is the home-opening game for San Jose, always a tough assignment for a visiting team. It will be the home debut of off-season acquisitions Heatley, Scott Nichol, Jed Ortmeyer, and Manny Malhotra.
After a first game to forget (combined minus-6), the No. 1 line of Heatley, Thornton and Setoguchi was a success last Saturday in Anaheim and Tuesday at Los Angeles. Thornton (1-4-5), Heatley (1-4-5) and Setoguchi (3-0-3) all found the score sheet in both games. Big things are expected of Heatley, a two-time 50-goal scorer; thus far, he has one power-play goal, eight shots and a minus-4 rating through three games.
Rookie and former Boston College star Benn Ferriero has been a revelation. The 22-year-old scored his first career goal in the win against the Ducks.
Who's hot -- Veteran defenseman Rostislav Klesla, who played only 34 games last season, has scored goals in both games for Columbus. He got the game-winner in the season-opener against Minnesota and found the net again against Vancouver. Marleau and Setoguchi have a team-high 3 goals each, while the rest of the team has only 4 goals combined. Marleau had the only 2 scores for San Jose in a 5-2 loss at Colorado last week, and scored the game-winner against Anaheim last Saturday. Setoguchi scored twice against the Kings.
Injury report -- Columbus defenseman Mike Commodore has missed both games with a groin strain, but is skating and could make his season debut on Thursday. Also, left wing Fredrik Modin is on injured reserve with a right knee injury. For San Jose, center Torrey Mitchell is on injured reserve with a left knee injury and center Joe Pavelski is out for two weeks with a lower-body injury.
Stat pack -- This is the 33rd all-time meeting between these clubs. The Sharks hold a 22-7-0-3 advantage, outscoring the Blue Jackets 96-66.
Puck drop -- San Jose posted the best home record in the League last season, going 32-5-4 at the Shark Tank. Re-establishing that home-ice dominance in 2009-10 will go a long way to making the Sharks serious Stanley Cup contenders, and it starts tonight. Columbus, on the other hand, was only 16-18-7 away from home in 2008-09.
-- Rocky Bonanno, NHL.com