The Matchup: The Columbus Blue Jackets (29-31-12) face off against the New Jersey Devils (42-25-4). This is the first and only meeting between the teams this season.
The Last Blue Jackets Game: The Blue Jackets dropped their 14th straight game, 1-0, in overtime Sunday against the Nashville Predators. Nashville’s Cody Franson scored the game-winner for the Predators, and Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason finished with 30 saves in the loss. The Blue Jackets are 0-9-5 in their past 14 games.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils lost to the Blues, 1-0, Sunday at the Prudential Center. Alex Steen scored with 13 seconds left in the first period for the only goal. The Devils’ powerplay continued to struggle, going to 0-for-17 in their past six games. Devils’ goalie Martin Brodeur, who made 19 saves, was stymied in his first attempt at 40 wins for the season.
The Last Blue Jackets – Devils Game: The Devils defeated the Blue Jackets, 2-1, last season in Columbus. John Madden broke a 1-1 tie with 8:41 remaining in the third period, and Kevin Weekes made 26 saves for the victory. The Devils are 5-2-2 all-time against Columbus.
Tonight’s Game: The most frustrating thing about the Devils is their lackluster performances against sub-.500 teams. We’ve all seen the recent losses to Edmonton, the Islanders and the Blues, to name a few teams. It seems as if the players bring their best for the great teams, but struggle against the weaker ones. As the season winds down, these are games that need to be won. Leaving points on the table can be the difference between second in the conference and fourth or the difference between an Atlantic Division title or no title at all.
At practice today, Devils’ coach Jacques Lemaire voiced his concern over the team’s lackluster play.
“I think at this time the players have to realize we’re getting close to the playoffs and it we don’t put it together, we don’t have any chance,” Lemaire told Tom Gulliti of the Bergen Record. “It’s not that our team is way off. It’s little things I’d love to see them do every time they go on the ice.”
Tonight is an opportunity to put those things together. Even though the Blue Jackets have dropped 14 straight, they’re still a decent team. They have scorers in Rick Nash and Kristian Huselius, who comes in on a bit of a hot streak. Tonight should be more than getting Brodeur his 40th win of the season. This team needs to put together a quality, 60-minute games no matter the opponent. They need to get set in that mindset, and it should start tonight. As Lemaire said, if they can’t put things together, they don’t stand a chance in the playoffs.
Gametime is 7 p.m., and remember to visit Running With The Devils for a live-game blog of tonight’s game.
Here are the lines from practice today. They should be the lines for tonight’s game:
Zach Parise – Patrik Elias – Jamie Langenbrunner
Ilya Kovalchuk – Travis Zajac – Brian Rolston
Dainius Zubrus – Rob Niedermayer – David Clarkson
PLL Leblond – Dean McAmmond – Rod Pelley
Bryce Salvador – Andy Greene
Mike Mottau – Colin White
Martin Skoula – Paul Martin