Blue Jackets Will Try To Right Ship Against Avalanche
AVALANCHE (15-9-6) at BLUE JACKETS (13-10-5)
Tonight's game will be broadcast on Altitude 2 and Mile High Sports Radio AM 1510.
Colorado 3-4-3; Columbus 3-4-3
First of four meetings this season. Columbus dominated the series in 2008-09, not only sweeping Colorado but outscoring its Western Conference rival by a 17-6 margin.
The Blue Jackets entered this season with great expectations coming off their first-ever playoff berth. While they currently sit third in the Central Division, they've dropped seven of their last eight. Even more troubling has been the season-long struggles of their defense and goalie Steve Mason, the reigning Calder Trophy winner. He was pulled from Thursday's 6-3 home loss to Toronto, which now has a better team goals-against average than Columbus. At 3.46 the Jackets have the second-worst GAA in the League, ahead of only Carolina.
Two games remain on a road trip that has seen Colorado manage a 1-1-1 record so far. Craig Anderson
shut out Tampa Bay but was injured in a shootout loss to Florida. Peter Budaj
stepped in against Pittsburgh and did an admirable job, but the Penguins got a power-play goal by Bill Guerin in the third and a pair of empty-netters for a 4-1 win over the Avalanche.
"I thought he played terrific," Sacco said of Budaj, who has made only three starts this season. "He gave us a chance to win."
"Obviously, it's been awhile since I've been in the net, but I was able to make some saves in the beginning, and I felt pretty good," Budaj told the Denver Post. "I felt great, it's great to be back, but the result was unfortunate."
By the time the second period against Toronto was over, Columbus was trailing 5-1 and Mason was watching as Mathieu Garon manned the net. It's a sight that has become all too familiar to the fans at Nationwide Arena, and forward R.J. Umberger told the Columbus Dispatch it has to stop.
"It's especially embarrassing to lose like this at home," Umberger said. "Last year, we fought hard and competed like crazy to be a competitive team, a playoff team. The respect we got from our fans was incredible. They really bought into us.
"I have to think that right now we're just letting them down. It's frustrating for them, for sure. They're paying good money at a tough time (economically) to come watch us, and there have been too many bad performances here at home."
Avalanche forward T.J. Galiardi
has scored goals in two straight and has four points in his last three games. Forward Matt Duchene
, the third pick in the 2009 Entry Draft, is heating up with five goals and seven points in his last five games. Forward Paul Stastny
has two goals and seven points over the same span.
R.J. Umberger had a hat trick and a two-assist game for the Blue Jackets in the last week, while Kristian Huselius has recorded two goals and five points in the last five games.
Anderson, who hurt his neck when Florida defenseman Keith Ballard collided with him in overtime Wednesday, is questionable for Saturday. Colorado will be without forward David Jones
(torn ACL) and defensemen Kyle Cumiskey
(foot) and Ruslan Salei (back).
Columbus lost defenseman Rostislav Klesla earlier this week to a torn groin that is expected to sideline him 4-6 weeks. He joins forwards Derek Dorsett (concussion), Andrew Murray (shoulder) and Fredrik Modin (knee) on injured reserve. Forward Raffi Torres is questionable for Saturday due to personal reasons, as is defenseman Marc Methot with an upper-body injury.
In spite of their tremendous success against the Avalanche last season, the Blue Jackets are still just 8-22-2 in the eight-season series between the teams.
Offense could be the name of this game, with Columbus tied for sixth in the League in goals per game (3.04) and Colorado right behind in 10th (2.97).