Pre-game thoughts: Familiar faces return to Nationwide tonight!

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Pre-game thoughts:  Familiar faces return to Nationwide tonight!
The 6-2 New York Rangers invade Nationwide tonight looking to end a 2 game losing streak. Of course the story of the game will be the return of two former Jackets in Nikolai Zherdev and Dan Fritsche.

The 3-3 Jackets will look to build off of their 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday and climb above .500 for the first time this season. It will be the first time Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman will face their former team....and can you believe the Jackets have won 3 straight against this squad? Lets make it 4.

Both teams are rested so this should be a real battle tonight. The Rangers have yet to lose on the road going 2-0-1 in three games. The Jackets are 2-0 at home.

KEYS TO LIGHTING EM UP * Control your emotions. No doubt there will be some players on both sides of the ice who will be fired up for this one. The though will be to play Jackets hockey which is a strong team defensive game with an offense that capitalizes on their chances.

* Big toe drag. We've all seen how Z can play when he's motivated which he certainly should be tonight. The Jackets also know this guy's tendencies -- he looks great in open ice with his flash and dash but when the game gets physical and dirty he tends to stay on the sidelines. Put the body on him and force the turnovers.

* Shuffling the cards. Renney has shuffled the lines looking to get players like Drury and Naslund going which the Jackets can't allow. They look to have 3 lines that are more than capable of scoring so all the Jackets players tonight have to play a focused defensive game.

* Jackets top two lines remain in tact. They've found some nice chemistry and productivity -- need that to continue. I'd also like to see Voracek on the ice more.

* Nash can't be gassed. The monster was definitely drained on Tuesday but I expect a much more re-charged game from #61 tonight. I also would be lying if I said I wouldn't like Nash to welcome Z back with a good ole fashioned body check to set the tone of this one early...and hey, its his T-shirt night!

* Need more of Tuesday's fantastic play from Leclaire for this one.

* Take advantage of the backup getting the start in Valiquette. He's got two wins in his two starts so he's playing well -- welcome this guy to Columbus by filing his net boys!

* The Jackets are going to have to work for it as the Rangers are very stingy defensively. They've only given up 18 goals in 9 game which is an excellent 2 gaa avg.

* It could come down to special teams. The battle to watch is the Jackets 6th overall PP (really, its not a misprint!) against the Rangers 6th overall PK.

* Boy it would be nice to get RJ Umberger going in the goal department.

GAME SPOTLIGHT
All eyes will be on the Zherdev and Fritchse making their first returns to Nationwide Arena. I fully expect hard working games from both of these players.

Tonight also marks the return of Michael Peca after his 5 game suspension. Peca should certainly solidify things down the middle with Manny and will definitely be a spark for faceoffs and the PK.

CROWD CHANTS
Still saluting after the National Anthem and goals scored baby!

PRE-GAME QUOTE
The Dispatch has a great quote from Dan Fritsche:

"I hope the fans know how much I still care about that organization," Fritsche said. "They drafted me, gave me a chance to play in the NHL and supported me all the way. The fans were just awesome.

"It's a very special place to me, Columbus, and it always will be."

Thoughtful words by the former Jacket...now just don't score on us tonight!

If you are on the fence about tonight then say to hell with it and get on down and lets pack this arena. This is Friday night hockey against a team we don't see a lot and its a prime chance for the Jackets to get on a roll. When that placed is filled believe me they know it.

See ya at the Garage bar pre/post (definitely post)!

GO JACKETS!!

-LTL
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