Red Wings-Blue Jackets: Columbus Looking to Even Season Series

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Red Wings-Blue Jackets: Columbus Looking to Even Season Series

In his latest update, the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline delivers a typical below-the-belt shot at Detroit.

My response? Have you been to Toledo lately?

I hear they’re painting abandoned buildings to make them look occupied. And they kicked Marines out so that they couldn’t undergo necessary training.

How’s that for an image?

My point is there are blighted cities in every state and kicking them while they’re down does nothing more than perpetuate that image. It certainly does nothing to contribute to that city’s recovery.

Thanks, Mr. Portzline.

Aside from taking easy potshots at the city, Porztline does provide some actual journalistic content:

No Fedorov tonight, though he may return tomorrow in St. Louis.

No Jiri Notovny, either.

Pascal Leclaire will start.

Modin will skate on the top line with David Vyborny and Rick Nash.

Portzline also thinks the rumors of Fedorov’s return to Detroit are “premature,” saying the Jackets will probably wait until just before the deadline to move him. 

Update (11:50 AM): Ryan Foherty confirms the defensive pairings listed below (Lidstrom/Chelios, Lebda/Lilja, Quincey/Meech). 

He also notes that Sergei Fedorov made the trip with the Jackets and he is participating in the team's morning skate.

That doesn't necessarily mean Fedorov will play tonight, however. It's probable he came along with the team just so that he could stay in shape as he continues to recover. 

Update (11:37 AM): IwoCPO has some more on a possible Fedorov-to-Detroit move at the deadline as USA Today's Kevin Allen weighs in here

Update (10:38 AM): I missed this: Columbus activated Fredrik Modin off the IR Wednesday, so he'll be in the lineup tonight. He has missed 47 games this season, but scored 22 goals for the Jackets last year and is an offensive threat. 

Tonight is the fourth of eight games between the Red Wings and the Blue Jackets this season. Detroit leads the series 2-1 with wins November 9th (4-1) and November 18th (5-4 SO). Columbus won the November 23rd meeting, 3-2, in a shootout. The teams will face-off three times in March and once in April to round out the series.

The puck drops at 7:30 ET. 

The 26-24-9 Blue Jackets are 1-2-3 in February, with their only win coming in Phoenix on the 7th. The 2-1 decision snapped a four-game skid that began in January. Since then, however, they have lost three in a row, starting with a 2-1 overtime loss in San Jose on the 8th.

Two nights later, they played host to the LA Kings and lost 3-2 in a shootout. On Tuesday, they were embarrassed by the Chicago Blackhawks in their own arena, losing 7-2.

Tonight's game kicks off a five-game road trip for the Jackets, who will make stops in St. Louis, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal before returning home for a game against the Sharks on the 27th.

Columbus' 61 points are good for third in the Central Division and 11th in the Western Conference. It is five points behind Nashville for second place in the Division and four behind Colorado for the eight seed.

Nikolai Zherdev leads the team with 48 points, 26 of which are assists. Rick Nash is the top goal-scorer with 29. Just Zherdev (22) and Jason Chimera (11) have reached double-digit numbers in goals scored. 

Jan Hejda is unique for the Jackets in that he is +6 through 58 games. The rest of the team is +1 or below.

The Jackets have been hit pretty hard by injuries/sickness lately. The Columbus Dispatch lists Zherdev (knee) and Notovny (shoulder) as questionable, while Fedorov (concussion) and Jared Boll  (bronchitis) are out.

Leclaire is expected to start tonight, though he has had the flu and isn't a lock to play.

For the Columbus side of things, see Better on Ice, The Jacket Times, Army of the Ohio, End of the Bench, Neutral Zone Trap, and Bethany’s Hockey Rants.

The Wings fell to 3-3-1 in February with their fourth straight loss, Tuesday night.

They began the month with three wins extending a streak to eight games, but the skid began with a 5-3 loss at home to the Kings on the 7th. They lost 3-2 in overtime on the road against the Leafs on the 9th and followed that up with a 3-2 loss to Anaheim the next afternoon.

On Tuesday, they dropped a game to the Predators in Nashville, 4-2.

Tonight's game is the last before a five-game road trip that will take them to Dallas, Denver, Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton.

Despite their recent troubles, the Wings maintain a 12-point lead over Dallas and a 14-point lead over Ottawa to hold their place atop the League.

Henrik Zetterberg leads the team in points with 70 and his 33 goals are also a team high, though he is goalless in his last three games.

Pavel Datsyuk is the top assist man with 48. Five active Red Wings have 10 or more goals: Datsyuk (20), Tomas Holmstrom (20), Valtteri Filppula (15), Johan Franzen (12), and Jiri Hudler (11).

The Wings will be without Niklas Kronwall (clavicle) for the eighth straight game. He is hoping to return Sunday in Dallas. Derek Meech will continue to gain NHL experience.

Dan Cleary (broken jaw) will miss his second full game. It looks like Aaron Downey got the most reps in practice yesterday, so there's a good chance he'll dress tonight instead of Matt Ellis.

Brian Rafalski (groin) will sit out. Kyle Quincey has been called up from the AHL to fill in.

Projected lines (via Khan):

Filppula-Datsyuk-Holmstrom
Franzen-Zetterberg-Samuelsson
Hudler-Draper-Kopecky
Maltby-Drake-Downey

Projected pairings:

Lidstrom-Chelios
Lebda-Lilja
Quincey-Meech

That third pairing isn't as frightening as you might think, as those two have experience together in Grand Rapids. However, we can expect some mixing on the blueline. Babcock seems to be giving Meech more responsibility, so it wouldn't surprise me if he saw time with Lidstrom and Lilja.

Chris Osgood will get his second-straight start tonight. He was pulled Tuesday night as Babcock tried to send a message to the team. Jimmy Howard will back him up, as Dominik Hasek is out with a sore hip flexor.

For more of the Wings' perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, and Winging It In Motown.

OklahomaWingNut's GDT is here.

This is a big game for both teams. The Wings are looking to halt a skid before they head out on a road trip this weekend and the Jackets will be looking to rebound from their embarrassing loss Tuesday night, with the added motivation of fighting for a playoff spot.

For the Wings, it's a must-win situation.

The last thing they need is to go into Dallas on Sunday while still on a losing streak. If nothing else, they have to elevate their game well above the level at which they've been playing lately. They cannot afford to have a slow start as they did Tuesday night, as a highly motivated Columbus team will make them pay.

With a guy like Rick Nash dressed for the opposition, they'll have to give Osgood better support this time around.

I will not be watching tonight because I will be at Van Andel Arena watching Darren McCarty's home debut with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

 

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