Blue Jackets Carry Flag into Sunshine State: Seek Wins Against Bolts, Panthers

Patrick DrottarCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2011

TORONTO, CANADA - DECEMBER 30:  Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets breaks away after a loose puck in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 30, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Blue Jackets defeated the Leafs 3-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Last weekend, the Columbus Blue Jackets were able to take advantage of an injured Detroit Red Wings team and get three out of a possible four points in a home-and-home series with the division foe.

The Jackets showed life in both games, went toe-to-toe, and showed one of the NHL elite that they do not see this season as lost just yet. In the second game of the series, a Columbus team, usually scarce when it comes to goals, was able to put up five, with the fifth and final tally coming courtesy of captain Rick Nash with under two minutes to play. 

Now the Jackets look to take the energy from this weekend into their three game road trip. Columbus will visit the Lightning Tuesday night, the Panthers on Wednesday, and will finish the trip against division rival St. Louis.

Just like Detroit, there could not be a better time for Columbus to play the always dangerous Tampa Bay. The Lightning are coming off back-to-back losses to teams they expected to beat. After shutting out Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals on Wednesday, the last place New Jersey Devils came into town and completely dominated one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

Tampa got out to an early lead with a power play goal from Steven Stamkos, but that is the last lead the Lightning would have. The Devils would go on to score four unanswered goals as they cruised to a 5-2 victory.

The following night in Carolina, the Lightning could not recover against a Hurricanes team that, barring recent games, has been on the outside looking in when it comes to the Eastern Conference playoff race.

In able for the Blue Jackets to have the same result as the Devils and Hurricanes, they have to get out of the gate quickly. They have to come out, finish their checks, and try to take the crowd out of the game early by taking a lot of shots on Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson. Defenseman Grant Clitsome has to continue to fire that blazing one-timer of his on the power play as Coach Scott Arniel has told him to take plenty of shots when he is on the ice.

The Jackets won't travel much for their next road game as they head three hours south to face the Panthers in Sunrise. The Panthers, who are currently in last place in the Southeast, went from bad to worse last Saturday when captain Bryan McCabe went down with a broken jaw.

Without McCabe, the Panthers are very young and inexperienced on defense (sound familiar). This is a very winnable game for the Jackets if they are aggressive and are able to score on the power play. One of the few high points for the Panthers is their third ranked penalty kill.

The Jackets finish their road trip on Saturday in St. Louis when they face a Blues team that blew out Columbus the last time the two teams met.

The Jackets could bring a lot of momentum if they are able to get victories in one or both of their games in Florida. That momentum, combined with the horrifying memory that was the last match-up between these two teams, could lead the Blue Jackets closer to that coveted eighth playoff spot and back into the mix at the perfect time.