DETROIT – The Columbus Blue Jackets are scheduled to arrive in town today where they are expected to meet their new general manager.
Hired on Feb. 13 as the third GM in club history, Jarmo Kekalainen, was to fly to the United States and rendezvous with his new team in the Motor City on Wednesday. The 46-year-old former GM of Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League is awaiting final approval on a work visa, which is expected to be completed soon.
Valtteri Filppula is very familiar with the Jackets’ new GM, who signed the Red Wings’ forward during the NHL lockout. Also on this year’s Jokerit team are Filppula’s brother, Ilari, and Red Wings’ top prospect Teemu Pulkkinen. Forward Ben Eaves, brother of Patrick Eaves, was also on the roster earlier in the year.
Plenty of work lies ahead for Kekalainen, who must sort out the Blue Jackets’ inconsistency this season. The worst team in the league, with a 4-10-2 record, Columbus, understandably so, is also near the bottom of the league’s power play efficiency list (13.3 percent), though they’re in middle of the road on the penalty kill (81.2 percent).
Only four Blue Jackets’ regulars – Jared Boll (+4), Nick Foligno (+2), Derek MacKenzie (+1) and Mark Letestu (+1) – are on the positive side of the plus/minus rating.
It’s the third of five meetings between these Central Division rivals, but the first at Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings and Blue Jackets battled twice in the first two weeks of the season. Detroit eked out a 4-3 shootout win on Jan. 21, and Columbus claimed a 4-2 victory on Feb. 2. Both games were at Nationwide Arena.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Defense - CBJ
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 7
SOG: 24 | +/-: -4
D JAMES WISNIEWSKI – The Canton, Mich., native returned to the Blue Jackets’ lineup on Monday following the birth of his daughter last weekend. Wisniewski has three goals and seven points this season, where he’s mainly been partner with former Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson. However, the two offensive-minded partners were recently split up and aligned with more defensive-thinking defensemen, though the two will likely continue to work the point together on the power pay. Still, expect to see Wisniewski playing alongside John Moore, and Johnson with veteran Adrian Aucoin when the team is at full strength. … Thursday’s game at The Joe will be Wisniewski’s 25th career game against Detroit. He’s produced three goals and seven points against the Red Wings. He’s also collected 38 penalty minutes against his hometown team, his highest total among all NHL clubs.
Season Series: 1-1-0
2011-12 Season Series: 4-2-0
All-Time Series Season: 50-14-1-6
Columbus’ Season Record: 4-10-2
Top Scorer vs. Red Wings: Fedor Tyutin – 3 Assists in 2 Games.
Red Wings’ Top Scorer – Niklas Kronwall – 3 Assists in 2 Games.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
Tickets to this game and all 14 remaining regular-season contests at The Joe are currently available for purchase at the JLA box office (313-396-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at DetroitRedWings.com.