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Game #50: Blue Jackets vs. EVIL EXPANSION TWIN! (Wild)

Saturday, January 27, 2007
Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
Record: 19-25-5
At home: 11-10-3
Last 10: 4-5-1
Bloggers and local media:
Death Cab for Woody
End of the Bench
The Jacket Times
Jackets make noise - Columbus Dispatch (Arace)

Before I get in to the nitty gritty of today's game, I just want to make sure everything is clear concerning my post from this morning.

Although I made sure to emphasize the fact that the only Sabres' fans that I was talking about were the majority of ones that came in droves to Nationwide and were particularly stationed in the upper bowl, I want everyone to understand that I don't think this way of Sabres' fans as a whole. Not before, not now, and I never will.

A lot of Sabres' fans have been very quick to apologize for the action of their co-fans, and I totally understand what they have to deal with, and extremely appreciate every last one, even though they don't have to take any responsibility, nor is it their obligation. When you're a Devils' fan (secondary, that is!), you know all too well just how often you deal with bandwagoners whenever they win a Stanley Cup. Another member and Blue Jackets' fan of the HFBoards was quick to point out that sooner or later, when the Blue Jackets do become a competitive and playoff-bound team, that we will also start to bring in bandwagoners who are on board just to make asses of themselves and have a good time, but at the obnoxious expense of o
ther people around them, be it at home or at other arenas they invade. So I know that I am also going to do everything I can to do damage control when that happens as well, and ensure that everyone knows Blue Jackets' fans are also not like that.

Now! With that out of the way, let's get to the game, alright?

Going in to tonight's fourth and final match with the Wild for the season, the Jackets are playing strongly, and they are playing soundly. Rick Nash has been able to bring some of that All-Star Game mojo back with him, and was the very first Blue Jacket to score in last night's 3-2 win during an early power play opportunity in the first period.

But Nasher isn't the only story of last night. As Aaron Portzline reported this morning in The Columbus Dispatch, a lot of last night's energy later in the game had to do with Hitchcock's matching up of the CBJ's checking line with the Sabres' second line. Parma (Dan Fritsche) has become an extremely clutch player in his own right as the season has gone on, playing as though he was a bat out of Hell whenever he's on the ice. It's almost unreal that at the start of the season, Fritsche almost wasn't even signed. Now he's only got 4 less goals than Nasher, and has already eclipsed his season point high from last season of 13 in 59 games with 21 points in 45 games. He's also one of a few Blue Jackets' players who can proclaim that they don't have a negative +/- after last night, now at an even 0 on the season.

I worry about how much gas is left in the tank tonight, though. Last night was exhausting just for the fans to watch, so who knows if the CBJ themselves have even an ounce of gas left, or if they'll be running on fumes. Remember that after they beat a dominant Anaheim Ducks team in dramatic fashion earlier this month, they went on a downward spiral afterwards.

Team: Minnesota Wild
Record: 26-20-4
On the road: 8-15-1
Last 10: 5-3-2
Bloggers and local media:
Wild Puck Banter
Wild forces its nemesis to fold - Star Tribune

Last meeting of the season against the expansion brothers, and it's a good thing that it's at home against the Wild, who suffer from a bad case of homesickness whenever they're on the road!

... or do they? Minnesota's road record is a little misleading at the moment, as the Wild have managed to notch a four game winning streak when away from the confines of the XCel Energy Center, and are looking to make it five tonight at Nationwide. They also played last night, playing host to the Flames, and squeaking by their division foes with a 2-1 shootout win. Niklas Backstrom, who started the game for Minnesota, faced a below average 24 shots and made every save but one.

Minnesota is currently clutching to the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, and is definitely not going to be releasing it without a fight. Of course the funny thing about them being in eighth place is that with just one win, they'd suddenly be in 3rd place due to just how few points every team in the Northwest Division has compared to the rest of the West, and the other division leaders. Talk about crazy.

As everyone probably already knows, Minnesota is known for their defense. Backstrom is most likely going to get the start tonight, with Manny Fernandez currently out due to a knee injury. This can certainly work in the Jackets' favor, as the last time they faced Backstrom was during backup duty, where he was beat for 2 goals on 10 shots in a 5-3 win at home. On the other hand, Backstrom is playing quite well right now, touting a better GAA and save percentage than Fernandez, who was supposed to be their #1 goalie coming in to this season.

Weaknesses? Well, looking at their rank when it comes to goals, goals against, etc. ... the only real chink they have is the fact that they're also in the bottom 10 for goals for in the league (however they've scored 5, 3, and 4 goals against the Jackets in their three games ... so, eh). Their power play and penalty kill is statistically better, and they hover about average in shots for and against. In essence, the Wild are middle of the pack, which pretty much fits well with their current rank in the Western Conference.

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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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