Sweet Home Cookin'! Canucks-Blue Jackets Preview

BLUE JACKETS (15-19-9) AT CANUCKS (25-16-1)

GAME TIME: 7:00 PST

TV: Sportsnet

SEASON SERIES: 1-0 Columbus

THE ENEMY: The Cannon

The Canucks will most likely ice the same lineup as in recent games barring an unforeseen circumstance. Pavol Demitra and Brad Lukowich were excited to be practicing with the Canucks yesterday. Demitra is feeling pretty good, but cannot take any contact yet. Lukowich admitted that the Canucks' style of play is a lot different than how the Texas Rangers Stars play. He seems to be content to continually practice with the team and learn the system as the 7th defenceman.

But let's talk Blue Jackets. Oh my. Talk about a free fall. Columbus won 5 of their first 6 games in October, including a 5-3 win over the Canucks. They finished the month with a 6-5-1 record. In November they accumulated a 7-4-3 record only to succumb to a 2-9-5 record in December. They now sit in 14th spot in the West, 3 points up on Edmonton. John McGourty of NHL.com paints an even darker picture:

The Blue Jackets have won only one of their past 10 games, have lost 12 of their past 13 games and 20 of 23 (3-13-7). The Blue Jackets have won only 10 of 16 games when leading after the second period and their .625 winning percentage is the League's worst in that category. Columbus gets in trouble early and can't get out. They are fourth-worst in allowing 40 first-period goals and fourth-worst in allowing 49 second-period goals. They have won only once in 17 games when trailing after two periods.

To Columbus' credit they are close to perhaps turning it around. They may have only won once in their last 5 games, but each game was decided by a goal. 3 of those 5 games went at least to overtime. Those games have been low-scoring affairs. 6 goals for and 9 goals against. They are trying to get back to their defensive roots. That means that this game is not a "gimme" for Vancouver. It's not necessarily another coach-killing game. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

COMPARATIVE STATS

-GOALS PER GAME: Canucks 5th, Columbus 23rd

-LEAST GOALS AGAINST PER GAME: Canucks 7th, Columbus 25th

-5-ON-5: Canucks 3rd, Columbus 30th

-POWERPLAY: Canucks 3rd, Columbus 6th. Aha.

PENALTY KILL: Columbus 14th, Canucks 18th

SHOTS PER GAME: Columbus 12th, Canucks 13th (tied)

LEAST SHOTS AGAINST PER GAME: Canucks 10th, Columbus 18th

WINNING % WHEN SCORING FIRST: Canucks 10th, Columbus 28th

WINNING % WHEN LEADING AFTER 1: Canucks 7th, Columbus 30th

WINNING % WHEN LEADING AFTER 2: Canucks 7th, Columbus 30th

Rick Nash plays over 20 minutes a game for Columbus, but only has 3 goals and 5 points in his last 10 games.

RJ Umberger has 2 goals and no assists in his last 10 games.

Kristian "The Weasel" Huselius has 2 goals and 4 points in his last 10 games.

With better defensive hockey comes better stats for goalie Steve Mason. He has a .919, .960 and 1.00 save percentage in his last 3 outings. He faced 37, 25 and 34 shots respectively in those 3 games.

The Canucks will have to get on Columbus derail them early. Their confidence has to be at a serious low if they go down 2 goals.

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