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Game #04: Blue Jackets at Wild.

Saturday, October 14, 2006
Columbus Blue Jackets (2-0-1)


Minnesota Wild (4-0-0)

So Vancouver's stumbled a little after a quick start to a 2-2-1 record, Chicago still has an off-season metric ton of negative projections to overcome despite still being 2-1-0, and that win against Phoenix everyone thought was so dominating since it was 5-1? Detroit showed everyone how to
really kill a desert dog via a 9-2 massacre at the Joe on Wednesday.

What does this mean? Forget everything we've seen so far, guys and gals. The Blue Jackets are meeting with a real contender tonight at 8:00 PM EST when they take on the undefeated Minnesota Wild.

Over four games, the Wild have a better power play and a better penalty kill. They've gotten 2 more goals and also given up 2 more goals than the Jackets, but that could all just be a matter of game differential. The Wild are also showing that despite having a defensively minded coach in Jacques Lemaire, they're not going to sit around this season, with a little over half of their roster registering at least one point. Offseason acquition Pavol Demitra leads the team with six points so far on the season (1 goal and 5 assists), so he's a threat that the Jackets will need to keep an eye on.

Injury-wise, the Wild are going to be down Pascal Dup-wheeeeeeee (Dupuis), who is out four to six weeks with a sprained knee. Outside of that their team core is largely healthy and fresh. They've had a day off since their 3-2 shootout win over the Capitals, so they're not going to be in any sort of rusty funk.

The Jackets, meanwhile, haven't played since Monday when they beat the Coyotes 5-1. Truth be told, the opening schedule for this 06-07 is all sorts of crazy and completely disliked by me. One game in about ten days? Why? Though the Jackets haven't played a game since the start of the week, they've been practicing since at least Wednesday.

In comparison to the Wild, even though the Wild's key GF, PP and PK stats outrank the Jackets, their points are spread much more across the whole team with only 7 of 21 players (that have played for the Jackets so far this season) not having anything on the scoresheets. Nash and Vyborny are forging ahead with 6 points apiece, and Duvie Westcott is surprising everyone with 5 points so far on the season.

Then, of course, everyone knows about the strong return of Nikky Zherdev and his two goals in his first game back. So right now the points are spread across a lot of the team, and they're producing as good as they possibly could be this early in the season (anyone who complains about 6 points in 3 games for two players must be a real pain to please, right?).

There are other concerns, though. Dan Fritsche is out with a shoulder injury for at least a couple of games it looks like, but fortunately nothing looks to be too severe. As a result, rookie Gilbert Brule will get another chance to show why he's one of the Calder favorites this season. If he doesn't do anything tonight, I'm going to go out on a limb and say he can start packing for his junior team (or Syracuse) since Sergei Fedorov looks ready to come back the game following this one. What better way to see if Brule is the real deal than a trial by fire against the Western Conference's hottest team right now, right?

News over the week:
Since I wasn't able to keep up to speed with things after a couple day break, let's toss out a few links of interest from across the mainstream media sites, as well as other places. From The Columbus Dispatch we have:

Fritsche lands on injured reserve - As mentioned prior, Fritsche is now on the mend with a shoulder injury that'll keep him out a few games. Brule's being slotted into the middle of the fourth line. I bet Jes is ready to kill MacLean for keeping his two favorite Jackets (Brule and Balastik) from any real ice time back there with Jody Shelley.

In another article on the injury, Sergei Fedorov's condition is touched on as well. I'm sort of torn on what to make of this. The sort of wavering condition on what they say is ligament issues keeping him out bothers me. On the bright side it'll be six days before the next game, which is against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Berard might need more back surgery - Not something you want to read about. Whatever the frack is ailing Berard just won't go away, and the longer it lasts the longer a great addition to an already lively power play is out. The blue line for the most part has been able to keep shot downs with the exception of the first game, and they're holding their own for the most part. But Berard is still a key part in adding some more long-term stability to the defensive corps.

Carter still adjusting to changes on, off ice - I'm not going to go feeding Carter to the wolves without mercy. A lot of things have happened since just before the start of the season, ranging from a nagging foot injury that he's played through, to Nikolai Zherdev returning and forcing some difficult decisions in terms of where Carter now has to play. Having moved between the 2nd line with Modin, and now the 3rd line with Malhotra and Chimera, it's easy to see how it can be hard to really find your comfort zone.

So be patient, fellow Jackets' fans. Give Anson some time, and hope that he'll start finding his legs once he stops being moved around from position to position.

Wrapping things up? Would you be surprised if not one, but two articles were written on the Blue Jackets outside of Columbus? Linda Cohn of ESPN and Larry Wigge of both express their optimism on the Jackets and what they are seeing as some real building blocks and progress towards the future, and maybe even this season. Give them a read! It's worth the time to look them over.

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Name: Michael
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About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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