Columbus, OH – The Anaheim Ducks enter the front end of a back-to-back when they visit Nationwide Arena and the Columbus Blue Jackets (14-14-7). This is the first and only time the Ducks will visit Columbus this season, and that might actually be a good thing this season. The Jackets are one of the best teams in the league this season when it comes to the number of points achieved out of all possible points. They currently hold a 10-4-5 record at home, which is good for 8th in the entire league, including 8-0-3 in their last 11 at home. The Ducks won the first meeting this season 3-2, with Corey Perry getting the game-winning goal.
What has been the key to success for the upstart Blue Jackets this season? Simple. Sergei Bobrovsky. He has been one of the biggest individual surprise stories in league. His play has lifted the Blue Jackets to play off contention. The 24-year-old Russian has a record of 11-8-6 with a 2.19 GAA and a .926 SV % while posting 3 shutouts. His GAA is good for 7th in the league and his SV % is good for 2nd in the league. However, he is a bit cold right now, as is the team as a whole right now, with a record of 0-2-1 with a 4.03 GAA and a .870 SV % in his last three games. Bobrovsky, or “Bob” as he’s known as, is extremely quick and extremely athletic. However, he struggles at times with consistency, but he’s a very good young goalie.
There is a severe lack of star players on this team. Some of the most notable players on this team are defensemen Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski, and forwards R.J. Umberger, Brandon Dubinsky and Vinny Prospal. Johnson has really taken a leadership role since joining the Blue Jackets last season. He logs a lot of ice time and plays in nearly every situation. Wisniewski has suffered his fair share of injuries in his time with Columbus, but he’s been a solid defenseman for them, just maybe not worth the $5.5 million per year. Umbergber is a tenured Blue Jacket now and has always been a solid two-way forward. He is a very nice component. Dubinsky is a fiery player who plays with a passion for the game. He has adjusted fairly well to life in Columbus after being a part of the Rick Nash trade. Prospal currently leads the team in points (20) and has provided some solid veteran leadership.
Forward Mark Letestu is second on the team in points (18). He’s a versatile two-way forward who is excellent at face offs, but has almost no physical aspect to his game. Derick Brassard is another forward that is a solid component. He has plenty of offensive skill, but he seems to not utilize them enough. He does not shoot the puck enough. The Blue Jackets have some more forwards who still have some growing to do in Artem Anisimov, Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson. Back on the blue line, defenseman Fedor Tyutin adds some offensive impact. Rookie Dalton Prout actually leads the team in plus/minus (+7), although he’s only appeared in 15 games. Fellow rookie defenseman Tim Erixon is probably one of their better defensive prospects at just 22-years-old. Filling out the blue line are veteran Nikita Nikitin and youngster John Moore who is another good defensive prospect for the Blue Jackets. They also have a long list of injured players: Jared Boll (undisclosed), Erixon (upper body), Adrian Aucoin (undisclosed), Dubinsky (lower body), and Nick Foligno (undisclosed). Forward Derek Dorsett is out for the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.
The Blue Jackets have never really been successful at scoring a lot of goals. In the previous five seasons the highest they have been ranked in goals per game was 21st. It is virtually the same thing when it comes to goals allowed per game. They were in the top ten a couple of times, but not in the last four or five years. Nothing too much has changed. Their defense/goaltending is ranked 15th in the league at 2.63 goals allowed per game and their offense is ranked 29th in the league at 2.31 goals per game. Only the New York Rangers average less goals per game. Special teams play has also not exactly been a strength over the years. Their power play is statistically one of the worst in the league, again, currently ranked 28th (13.4%). However, they have been one of the best penalty killing teams in the league, currently ranked 5th (85.7%). Their power play versus the Ducks talented power play will be a nice matchup to watch.
The Ducks suffered their first dry spell of the season when they lost four straight, two to the Detroit Red Wings and two to the San Jose Sharks. However, they ended the losing streak by completing the season series sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Ducks displayed excellent composure during that little losing streak and it certainly helped them in the win over the Blackhawks when they lost a lead, but took it back late in the third period. The Ducks explored some line changes in practices over the last week or so. The Blue Jackets are desperate for some points as they sit just outside the playoff picture. Nick Bonino remains out day-to-day. The Ducks may have their hands full with the Jackets at Nationwide Arena this time around. Bob will be in net for the Jackets, it is not confirmed who will be in net for the Ducks tonight, but I’m going to go with Jonas Hiller as he is 4-0-1 in his last five games against the Blue Jackets.
Tags: Anaheim Ducks Artem Anisimov Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson Chicago Blackhawks Columbus Blue Jackets Corey Perry Dalton Prout Derick Brassard Detroit Red Wings Fedor Tyutin Jack Johnson James Wisniewski John Moore Jonas Hiller Mark Letestu Nationwide Arena NHL Nikita Nikitin R.J. Umberger Rick Nash Ryan Johansen San Jose Sharks Sergei Bobrovsky Time Erixon Vinny Prospal