Well the week is off to a fast start even though yesterday evening I crashed for 11 straight hours after being driven to sleep by a flu I've been fighting since last Thursday evening. Tonight we get the Caps @ Columbus and the "Super Tuesday" primary results to watch. Both should be interesting and fun to watch from surreally different perspectives.
As relates to the Caps-Blue Jackets game, Alex Ovechkin meets the Jackets for just the second time in his 217 game career and for the first time in Columbus. Ovie played his first NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 5, 2006, and the Caps and Jackets have not met since that contest. The Caps lineup will be shuffled with Eric Fehr called up from Hershey and put on the first line as Victor Kozlov has been moved to the second line center in an attempt to ignite more balanced scoring in particular and more scoring in general from other than the first line. On the other side of center ice, for the first time in the team’s seven seasons in the NHL, Columbus finds itself in the playoff chase. The Blue Jackets are in 11th place in the NHL’s Western Conference, just three points behind Nashville for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference. It should be a close, fun game to watch as both teams are alive in the playoff race and fighting to get above the 8th place in the conference "cutoff line" with 30 games remaining in the regular season.
The line ups will likely look like this:
61-Nash, 12-Novotny, 9-Vyborny
25-Chimera, 19-Peca, 13-Zherdev
49-Fritsche, 16-Brassard, 17-Brule
51-Murray, 27-Malhotra, 40-Boll
Goaltenders30-Norrena, 31-Leclaire (Probable Starter-Leclaire)
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 14-Fehr
43-Fleischmann, 25-Kozlov, 28-Semin
53-Laing, 39-Steckel, 10-Bradley
87-Brashear, 21-Laich, 15-Gordon
Goaltenders1-Johnson, 37-Kolzig (Probable Starter - Kolzig)
The Blue Jackets have 56 points in 54 games played points and are 25-23-6 overall and 16-8-4 on home ice this season. The Caps have 53 points in 53 games played and are 24-24-5 overall and 10-12-4 in away games this season.
For excitement and skill factor the Caps have Alex Ovechkin, the league leading goal and point scorer and at times a magician on ice as well as a reshuffled first and second line meant to re-ignite their overall offensive punch.; The Blue Jackets have All Star Left Wing Rick Nash another clutch goal scorer with smooth moves, 26 goals and 17 assists so far this season and Right Wing Nickolai Zherdev with 21 goals and 24 assists to date in the 2007-2008 season. The Caps have 152 goals for so far this season; Columbus has 133, so for offense you have to give the edge to Bruce Boudreau's Capitals.
On the defensive side of the puck the Caps have Mike Green who's having a breakout season, along with Shoane Morrison in his second game back since being out with a foot injury, as well as veteran Tom Poti, Milan Jurcina and John Erskine who have been playing a much more physical games the last three contests they've participated in and Jeff Schultz who has been threatening to breakout and fully establish himself as a blue chipper during several stretches this season. The Blue Jackets "Blue Liners" are anchored by their 36 year old Captain, 2 time Stanley Cup Winner, Adam Foote, who is paired 4th season pro 26 year old American Ron Hainsey, second pair is a duo of young, promising D-men: Kris Russell and Rostislav Klesla who have been getting an increasing amount of ice time for the Blue Jackets and playing well, and the Blue Jackets third defensive paring of 29 year old Czech Jan Hejda who is in only his second NHL season and 33 year old, 6 season veteran Dick Tarnstrom. Given the Caps have Brian Pothier out right now, you'd have to call this area even or even give a slight edge to the Blue Jackets.
Likely goalies for this game are Pascal Leclaire for the Jackets and Brent Johnson for the Caps. Despite the fact that Johnson is playing well and has if anything elevated his game of late, in this area you'd have to give a clear advantage to the Blue Jackets. Twenty Five year old Pascal Leclaire has been having a breakout season his GAA of 2.11 is third best in the league and his save percentage of 0.925 is fifth in the league. His record thus far in the 2007-2008 season is 19-11-3. If the Blue Jackets play backup Fredrik Norrena in goal give the edge to the Caps regardless of whether #1 goalie Olaf Kolzig or Johnson play for the Caps.
Overall, anticipate a hard fought game. Look for Caps Center Dave Steckel to have a big game in his "homecoming" and watch and see how Alexander Semin reacts to being taken to task for his "bad" hooking penalties of late. But if both the Caps reshuffled first and second lines click, the Caps should be able to outscore the Blue Jackets 4-2 and travel to Philly for Wednesday Night's game in the City of Brotherly Love with two more points in their pockets. LET'S GO CAPS!!!!
Elsewhere in my life things are once again getting very busy, on the professional front at ICx Technologies I'm working on several pursuit/business capture initiatives and it's time to review our product development status versus our 2008 plans for the first time in this year's cycle. On the personal front, next week, my wife travels to Bryn Mawr, PA to get her knee replaced with a new type of artificial knee, the Triathlon Knee, so it's entirely likely that following Friday Night's home game against the Division Leading Hurricane's my updates will be spotty for a week or so. A friend of mine from College will be using my seats with his 9-year old son for Sunday's Ranger game while I drive up to Flyer country, where the hospital is and where we'll likely be until Wednesday assuming everything goes well, so if things start to get spotty here relative to posting of updates till late next week, it's because it's unavoidable.