Tonight is a big game for the Jackets. It will be the first meeting between Columbus and the Detroit Red Wings this season. Tonight's matchup is a great opportunity for the team to test their mettle against their toughest division opponent.
Detroit is on fire already this season, posting a 12-2-1 record for 25 pts. That puts them just one little point behind the Ottawa Senators. That said, the Red Wings have the opportunity to re-take the top spot in the league with a win. Columbus, on the other hand, stands to gain some "street cred" by taking down one of the NHL's top teams.
So far, Columbus has had no problem with weaker teams. Phoenix, St Louis, and even Anaheim have been defeated soundly. The better performing teams have all been losses for the Jackets- Colorado and Minnesota in particular. It's worth noting that games against those two opponents have been away, and their home ice equivelant could yield different results. Tonight's showdown in Motown will certainly fit into the latter category- the "uphill battle".
According to "Puck Rakers", the Jackets lines may be as follows:
League-leading Leclaire will be in net.
Note that Chimera is playing on the "rough 'em up" line rather than the "energy line" with Malhotra and Fritsche. Also note that Novotny is the starting center. I expect these lines to vary somewhat come gametime, and maybe further changes as the night progresses.
Keys to the game:
- The Jackets will need to keep their eyes on Zetterberg and Datsyuk. By multiple accounts, they're the new Yzerman/Shanahan duo. They'll score quickly if you let them.
- Along the same lines, the defense is going to have to keep the shots down, especially early. Leclaire can make some great saves, but he shouldn't have to. Keeping a thick defense early in the game will prevent the floodgates from opening.
- Give Zherdev and Nash some room to work. I'd like to see these guys get extra ice time on the power plays and any 4 on 4 situation. Nash is more confident than ever, and if you can get him the puck in front of the net, he'll take care of the rest.
Tonight's game starts at 7:30 on FSN. May not be in HD in the Columbus market (not sure why. Bummer.)