Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pucks and Giblets - 11/26/09

CBJ at Senators; Scotiabank Place
7:30 p.m. (EST); Fox Sports Ohio/TSN (HD)

Personally, I've always enjoyed leftovers more than the big meal. This is more of a leftover turkey sandwich version of the Four Lines Deep preview column -- still satisfying, just not as big and fancy. This is the only meeting of the season with Ottawa. Steve Mason earned a shutout when the two clubs last faced each other.

Ottawa has been playing well. They've earned 27 points (12-7-3) and sit in second place in the Northeast Division. The Blue Jackets have not been playing well. Ottawa lost in New Jersey last night, 3-1, but had won four consecutive games at home prior to that loss. Much like Montreal, the Jackets will skate in a barn tonight that has a very engaged crowd and a confident home team. The Sens haven't lost at home in regulation since Nov. 7.

Milan Michalek, who came to the club from the San Jose Sharks, is filling in admirably for Dany Heatley.  The Jackets will need to key in on him, especially since hot players tend to get blazing hot against the Jackets.  Daniel Alfredsson is also playing very well, although most of his points come from distributing the puck. The right wing leads the team with 15 assists and 23 total points.

Centers Mike Fisher and Jason Spezza have been both productive and are performing very well in the faceoff circle -- Vermette will have his hands full with his former mates.

Brian Elliott will be in net for Ottawa, as the oft-injured Pascal Leclaire is out with a fractured cheekbone. On a side note, I really like Pazzy and wish him the best. You can't find a better team guy and I hope he has a speedy recovery. Elliott has played pretty well (2.78 GAA/.901 SV) and the team knows he's going to be in net for the foreseeable future, so the Jackets should expect him to be pretty solid. Overall, Ottawa has been playing much better defensively than the Jackets -- they've given up nearly 20 less goals on the season, and their PK is in the top third of the league.

There shouldn't be too many lineup changes for the Jackets. Mason will be in net and either Methot (an Ottawa native) or Russell will switch up on the blueline. My personal vote is for Russell, but Methot may play well on home turf and with the memory of a recent healthy scratch. The forward lines should remain the same. Look for Vermette to continue his scoring streak, and I think that Voracek is due for a big game. Hopefully, Nash will respond in the right way to some of the criticism he's been taking for his inconsistent commitment to the defensive end of the rink. Personally, I think he will.

The formula for the Jackets is as simple as gravy -- keep it hot and take out the lumps. The first two periods they played in Montreal were pristine. And the third period was a high-speed train wreck. If they play as they did in the first two periods -- which involved winning board battles, high-energy checking and excellent breakouts -- the Jackets should get off the losing streak. If not, then they will probably give up another 4-5 goals in a losing effort and return to Columbus with an even greater sense of frustration.

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