At Nationwide tonight is a battle of East v. West. Both teams are in a fight to avoid the bottom of the league. Columbus is there now. Colorado is on their way. The Avs are loaded with former Blue Jackets on their active roster- Andrew Bodnarchuk, who they claimed off waivers recently; Jack Skille, who signed with them over the summer; Nick Holden, whose been there for a while; Nate Guinen, whose also been there for a while; Blake Comeau, who signed there over the summer after being with Pittsburgh last year; and Francois Beauchmin, who played with Anaheim last year.
Tonight's matchup may favor the Avs because of overall records. Based on this season, the Avalanche are a better team on the road than on home ice. Matt Duchene has been the main reason for this; however, hot goalies have helped them out, including both Semyon Varlamov and Reto Berra. Columbus, on the other hand, is similar to Colorado, as they are worse at home than on the road, with seven wins on home ice.
Columbus and Colorado last played in October, which was when John Tortorella earned his first win as head coach as Columbus. In this game, Boone Jenner had two goals; Ryan Murray had a goal; and Brandon Dubinsky scored in the shootout. Sergei Bobrovsky had the win in the matchup.
Speaking of Bobs, he and winger Markus Hannikanen were activated off the injured reserve. Will they both play tonight? My feeling is the winger will be sent to the minors, while Bobrovsky is may get in between the pipes tonight.
With Colorado, more hype is around this team as their alumni roster was announced yesterday. For the Avs, the likes of current Avs general manager Joe Sakic, LA Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake, Avalache head coach Patrick Roy, and one of my favorite players, Peter Forsberg are on their roster. For their opponents, the Detroit Red Wings, they have the likes of Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidatrom, and wingers Kirk Maltby, Martin Lappointe, and Tomas Holstrom.
*Bolded player(s) equal NHL All Star. This will be presented through the entire month of January.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky – Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell - Alexander Wennberg – Brandon Saad
Kerby Rychel - William Karlsson - Josh Anderson
Markus Hannikainen - Gregory Campbell - Jared Boll
Ryan Murray - Seth Jones
Jack Johnson - Cody Goloubef
Justin Falk - Dalton Prout
Injured: Matt Calvert (knee), David Clarkson (upper body), Curtis McElhinney (ankle), Nick Foligno (upper body), David Savard (upper body)
Scratched: Fedor Tyutin, Rene Bourque
Alex Tanguay - Nathan MacKinnon - Matt Duchene
Gabriel Landeskog - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
Andreas Martinsen - Chris Wagner - Jarome Iginla
Cody McLeod - John Mitchell - Jack Skille
Francois Beauchemin - Nikita Zadorov
Nick Holden - Tyson Barrie
Zach Redmond - Chris Bigras
Injured: Reto Berra (ankle), Erik Johnson (lower body), Ben Street (chest), Brad Stuart (back), Jesse Winchester (head)
Scratched: Mikhail Grigorenko, Nate Guenin. Andrew Bodnarchuk
Things to Watch
1. Offense. Both teams have young guns on their teams that can score goals. Colorado's top line of Nate MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Matt Duchene are the primary producers. Columbus has Brandon Saad and Boone Jenner that have produced 15 goals each.
2. Russian Roulette. This game may come down to two Russian goalies in between the pipes in Varlamov and Bobrovsky.
3. Defensive Issues. The Jackets and Avalanche have young defenseman that make mistakes. They also don't have the greatest cores back there, so if there is one mistake, goals may be a plenty this evening.
Players to Watch
1. Seth Jones- the Texas native grew up in Denver, meaning he probably watched a lot of Avalanche games. He may know what they are capable off, plus playing them a lot as being in a division that plays them five times a year with Nashville, he might be able to help this team get a win.
2. Matt Duchene- Colorado's All Star is a big reason for their success this year, and he might have to be big again tonight to help this team win. The biggest problem for this team is they are in the best division in hockey- the Central Division, where they play Chicago, Nashville, Minnesota, Dallas, and Winnipeg, so their playoff hopes are slim this year.
Enjoy the games tonight. More to come…