Tuesday, December 20, 2005

GameDay: vs. Columbus (9-23-0, 18 Pts) 7:30 ET

Tonight is the third of eight meetings between these to supposed Central Division rivals. The Wings lead the season series 2-0 with wins October 22nd (6-0) and 24th (6-2). On the 22nd, Jason Williams scored a hat trick while Pavel Datsyuk netted two goals on the 24th. The Wings are coming off a three-game road trip in which they went 1-1-1, wrapping up their Eastern Conference play for the season. They began the trip in Atlanta, losing 7-6 despite coming back from a four-goal deficit in the third period. They then headed to Florida where they lost 3-2 in overtime after tying the score a couple times. Finally, they got a win in in the final game after their offense exploded with three goal in the third against the Lightning to give them a 6-3 victory. The Wings are 0-2-0 following thee-game road trips so far this season, losing once even when coming off a win as well as when not. The Blue Jackets are having an awful season and it hasn't helped that Rick Nash has only played four games due to injury. He was activated off the IR list last week and played against the Predators, logging 14 and a half minutes and getting one shot. This is depressing: no player has better than an even +/- rating with the majority currently in the negatives. You know it's bad when your best defenseman (and most offensively-oriented) is minus-21 (Bryan Berard). Adam Foote isn't a whole lot better at minus-12. They have the lowest scoring offense (62) in the NHL but their defense is only fifth-worst, allowing 115 goals. They managed to beat two Eastern Conference opponents during their inter-conference series (the Islanders and Devils) but are currently on a three-game slide, losing most recently to Nashville, 7-3, Saturday. Chris Osgood should get the start tonight. The News reports that the Wings have sent Jimmy Howard back to Grand Rapids and called up goalie Joey MacDonald in his place. They want Howard to get playing time and he isn't likely to get much of that here. Valterri Filppula was also sent down to the Griffins. Filppula played two games for the Wings and notched one assist, playing a total of 5:35. Mathieu Schneider will be out of the lineup for this game. He had to leave the Lightning game due to a leg cramp and has not practiced, according to the papers. Robert Lang could make his return from a groin injury tonight. We'll get to see former-Wing Sergei Fedorov for the first time this season tonight. Sergei was traded to Columbus last month but has just one goal and four assists over 14 games for the Jackets, a deficiency that can be attributed in part to a lingering groin injury. He announced last week that he would skip the Olympics, saying his focus needed to be on playing for Columbus. Given his performance so far, it's hard to disagree with him. Kris Draper, who's offensive production has been similarly dry, can identify with him. Despite the Wings' two previous encounters with Columbus this season, I don't expect the Jackets to be push-overs. They do have some skill and would surely like to pull off an upset at the Joe. I was able to obtain a couple tickets for this game from someone a while back (thanks Terry!) so I'll actually be at the game. I'm definitely looking forward to it and I'll be sure to get a lot of pictures to go along with my thoughts on the night. Also, our condolences to the Gretzky family on the death of your matriarch, Phyllis Gretzky, last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you.


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