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Freedom Of Choice: Blues at Columbus Blue Jackets Preview

With the franchise record set, the boys head to #Lumbus

Whip It.... Whip it Good
Whip It.... Whip it Good
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in team history, the Blues have points in 13 straight games. This includes 7 straight wins, and now puts them in a tie with Nashville for tops in the Central. The Preds have played one less game, and so have that advantage. This is truly historic for the Blues, and the rest of the league is really taking notice of that accomplishment. Of particular note is that the Blues are winning despite injuries to some major players. The ability to keep winning in spite of those missing players is a testament to the depth that the front office has constructed for the team. There's a lot of satisfaction in that.

Of course, the fans in Columbus would think that's just adorable.

The Blues have had to deal with injuries, for sure, but their adversity pales in comparison to that of the Blue Jackets. The big free agent signing in the 2013 offseason was Nathan Horton, who played a whole 5 games in the 2013-2014 season and none this year at all. Other players have in been in and out of IR this year, with star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (BOBROVSKY!!!) recently joining the injured list with a groin issue. Currently, Matt Calvert is day-to-day with an illness, Brian Gibbons and Boone Jenner have been on IR since mid-December and Jeremy Morin went on IR with an accelerated heart rate as of 01/28. In total, the Blue Jackets have lost 312 man-games to injury so far this year. Those missed games amounts to 5.7 million in Cap hit, which also factors in the importance of those absences via their salary cap value. In contrast, the Blues have lost 91 man-games, with a value of 2.16 million against the cap (numbers via ManGamesLost.com).  It's not quite as dangerous as working in the coal mine, but it sure seems like it.

After impressing a lot of the hockey world last year, the Blue Jackets were expected to improve again this year and make a claim for a playoff spot. Instead, their constant health concerns has dragged them down to a 21-25-3 record, good for 2nd-worst in the Meh-tropolitan and 3rd-worst in the Eastern Conference (only Buffalo and Carolina are worse). Fans are hoping that they can rescue the season (or at least project some respectability) once they get players back healthy. Horton did show up to practice recently, but he's certainly a ways off. He'll be stiff until he can get into game shape. The reality is, they are actually closer to the top of the McDavid/Eichel standings, so they might get a different prize than the one they were expecting this past Fall. A fresh start next year will do them well.

That's not to say that they're pushovers, though. As we saw with Buffalo last night, even the worst teams can put up a considerable fight. The success the Blues have had this and previous years means that we're going to get the best effort of every team we play. All-Star Captain Nick Foligno is having a career year, tied for the team points lead with 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists). Keeping pace with him is young star Ryan Johansen, first on the team with 19 goals (and 26 assists). After that, there's a steep drop off - third on the team in points is Scott Hartnell with only 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists).  Those 3 players are the only ones in the double-digits for goals scored. If we can keep those guys off the scoresheet, the game is already halfway won. Also, keep an eye out for old friend Jordan Leopold, who has 3 points since we traded him to C-Bus earlier this season.

With Officer Bobrovsky no longer on the case, the crease has been given over to Curtis McElhinney and Anton Forsberg. I'd expect McElhinney to get the start for the Blue Jackets, as they are well-rested and he's the most experienced of the two. So far this year, he's posted a .907 Save Percentage and an even 3.00 GAA. The Blues will be starting Brian Elliott in net.

The other notable lineup change, is the expected swapping of Ty Rattie for Joakim Lindstrom . Of course, Coach Hitch may change his mind, but his announced intention prior to the Buffalo match was to split the two games between them. With Rattie appearing in Buffalo, that would suggest Lindstrom plays tonight. Either way, it's a beautiful world for Blues fans. Stay tuned.

Further Reading:

The Cannon

Blues vs Blue Jackets coverage

GameDay Twitter Feed

Final Verse: Another early one; the puck drops at 6:00 PM St Louis time, and the GDT should drop shortly before that. The TV broadcast is on FoxSports MW, and the radio call is on KMOX 1120 AM. Skip the work happy hour, and spend it with us, eh? That way, you have the game on and you can drink all you want, because you're already home. Keep an eye out for Hitch's Hat, who will be at the game, as well.

LGB!!!