NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, April 13th
(All times Eastern)
Columbus Blue Jackets (18-16-7) at Minnesota Wild (22-16-2), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Columbus Blue Jackets have become a tough team to beat
on their home ice, but their season-long struggles on the road could be what
keeps them from reaching the postseason for just the second time in franchise
The Blue Jackets start up a huge six-game swing on Saturday night with a stop
in Minnesota to battle the struggling Wild.
Columbus opened a three-game homestand with a 3-0 loss to Minnesota, but
rebounded to win its next two games and push its home record on the season to
13-5-5. However, the Blue Jackets have just one game as the hosting club
remaining and it won't come until April 27 against Nashville to close the
Before that game, the Blue Jackets will play six in a row on the road and come
into this game 5-11-2 as the visiting club this season.
Staring down this make-it-or-break-it trip, the Blue Jackets were able to best
the surging St. Louis Blues 4-1 on Friday night. Marian Gaborik notched his
third goal and sixth point in five games since joining Columbus, while Sergei
Bobrovsky made 31 saves.
Cam Atkinson had a goal and an assist, while Ryan Johansen and Artem Anisimov
also scored in Columbus' fifth victory in seven games.
"We're a team that doesn't back down and we were able to come back from an
early deficit to get the win," said Atkinson. "We played a full 60 minutes and
that's what you need when you're fighting for a playoff spot."
Columbus is in a three-way tie with the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes for
ninth place in the Western Conference, two points back of the Detroit Red
Wings for the final playoff spot.
The Wild are one point ahead of the Red Wings in seventh and have won six of
their last nine at home versus the Blue Jackets.
"As soon as we get on the plane and get to Minnesota, we're focused on them.
We'll enjoy (the win) right now, but it's a huge game tomorrow," said
It's probably a bigger game for the Wild then they would have thought a few
weeks ago, when they were battling the Vancouver Canucks for first place in
the Northwest Division. However, Minnesota has lost five of its last six, with
the lone win in that span last Sunday's shutout of Columbus.
The Wild, who have slipped six points behind the Canucks in the standings,
have been shut out in back-to-back games and three times over their last four.
They have scored just six goals during their 1-5-0 skid.
Minnesota suffered its most recent setback on Thursday to visiting St. Louis,
falling 2-0. Niklas Backstrom made 18 saves on 20 shots faced.
"We played a strong team and we played a good game," Wild head coach Mike Yeo
said despite the loss. "I'm not saying we can't be better in a couple of
areas, but obviously the complexion of the game changes if we score first."
Already without winger Dany Heatley for the rest of the season due to left
shoulder surgery, top defenseman Ryan Suter suffered an undisclosed injury
versus the Blues and did not finish the game. He is day-to-day according to
Yeo, as is forward Matt Cullen (lower body).
04/13 10:24:20 ET