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Game Preview: Red Wings at Blue Jackets

January 21st, 2013 at 4:58 PM
By Frank Vajcner

What: Detroit Red Wings at Columbus Blue Jackets

When: 7:30 p.m.. tonight

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

TV: Fox Sports Detroit, NBC Sports Network, TSN

Records: The Red Wings are 0-1-0; the Blue Jackets are 1-0-0

Coaches: Mike Babcock is 421-217-19-83 in his tenth season as a head coach, and 352-155-68 in his eighth season with the Red Wings. Todd Richards is 95-92-18 in his fourth season as a head coach, and 19-21-2 in his second season with the Blue Jackets.

Season series: The Red Wings went 4-2 against the Blue Jackets last season, with both losses coming in Columbus.

Red Wings update: The Red Wings are coming off of a game to forget after getting shellacked by the St. Louis Blues 6-0 last Saturday. They are already dealing with plenty of injury problems, as winger Jan Mursak was the latest to go down with a collarbone injury. Backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson and defenseman Jakub Kindl are also out with groin injuries. In addition, winger Todd Bertuzzi remains out with mononucleosis, and center Darren Helm is out with a back injury, despite skating the last couple days. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is a game time decision with a sore shoulder. The team has recalled goaltender Tom McCollum and defenseman Brian Lashoff from Grand Rapids.

Blue Jackets update: The Jackets earned a surprising 3-2 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators last Saturday, as Derick Brassard scored the winner in the sixth round. The team did a lot of house cleaning at the trade deadline last season, and in the offseason, as they shipped winger Jeff Carter to the Kings for defenseman Jack Johnson, and shipped team captain Rick Nash to the Rangers for forwards Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and defenseman Tim Erixon in July. They also acquired winger Nick Foligno from Ottawa and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky from the Flyers. The Jackets have been a mess since they became a franchise in 2000, making the playoffs once in 2009. They were swept by the Red Wings that year.

PLAYER GROUP BREAKDOWN

Centers: Compared to the Blues, the Jackets are not as deep down the middle. Pavel Datsyuk should have an easy matchup against Brassard. Valtteri Filppula will likely go against Anisimov, which will be tougher than the aforementioned matchup. It is worth noting that Filppula recorded nine points (2 goals, 7 assists) against the Jackets last season. All in all, this is not even a close matchup

Edge: Red Wings

Wingers: With Nash gone, RJ Umberger is Columbus' top winger. Keep an eye on Cam Atkinson, as some have said he is the Jackets' hidden gem. Henrik Zetterberg should have an easier time getting shots on goal, and Damien Brunner should be able to use his speed more. Derek Dorsett is a physical second line winger, so look for him to be a pest. Johan Franzen scored three goals against the Jackets last season. With Mursak out, Patrick Eaves will play on the third line, or Drew Miller will move up from the fourth line. Foligno adds some firepower to the Jackets' third line. There could be an opportunity for Jordin Tootoo to mix it up with Dorsett or Jared Boll. Again, Columbus' wingers are further down the ladder than the Blues' wingers.

Edge: Red Wings

Defensemen: This was a group thought to be pretty solid with trades, acquisitions, and draft picks in the summer. However, despite being the strongest position group, injuries and other factors have downgraded expectations. Top draft pick Ryan Murray was shelved with a severe shoulder injury, and Erixon was sent to the minors. Johnson, a former University of Michigan star, recorded 14 points in 21 games last season with the Jackets. He will likely be paired with James Wisniewski, another Michigan native. Fedor Tyutin recorded two assists in Saturday's game against the Predators. Niklas Kronwall recorded three goals against the Jackets last season. If Ericsson can't play, Lashoff will make his NHL debut. Either Kyle Quincey or Brendan Smith will move up to play with Kronwall. The Jackets also signed veteran Adrian Aucoin in the offseason. 

Edge: Red Wings

Goaltending: Bobrovsky will start in goal tonight after he stopped 32 shots in Saturday's win. He played one game against the Red Wings while with the Flyers, and he gave up four goals in a loss on February 12. Jimmy Howard will look to bounce back against a team that he won both starts against last season. McCollum will back up Howard tonight.

Edge: Red Wings

Prediction: Don't make any conclusions after one game for both teams. While both teams had opposite performances of the other, Columbus has never been able to build off of a big win. Nationwide Arena has become Joe Louis South when the Red Wings come to town. The Red Wings just have too much depth, so look for them to bounce back nicely and record their first win of 2013.

Make it: Red Wings 4, Blue Jackets 1.

Season prediction record: 1-0 (1.000)

Tags: Detroit, Detroit Red Wings, Hockey, NHL

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