Game #13 CBJ at St. Louis

November 9, 2006

After four days off, the Blue Jackets (4-7-1) will re-take the ice tonight in St. Louis to face the Blues (4-6-3), the team right above them in the Central Division.  As noted a few days ago, the Blue Jackets have to improve at even strength play to have any chance this season.  To date, for every goal scored 5-on-5 by the Jackets two are returned from the opposition.  It will be tough to reach 75 points, let alone the 95 or so needed to make the playoffs, if this is not addressed. 

It seems at this relatively early point in the season that the problem can largely be attributed to the top six forwards not scoring at their expected pace.  Rick Nash hasn’t scored in nine games, Zherdev/Fedorov/Modin are all streaky.  I feel confident that a few garbage goals and lucky bounces will get the team moving in the right direction, I just wonder when that will happen.  Tonight against the Blues would be a good place to start.  Picking up two points over a division foe would be a good break for a change.

Blue Jackets: If you’re watching at home, expect to see some different line combinations.  In yesterday’s Dispatch there was a story about the mixing of line combinations expected in the next game.  It was noted that Anson Carter will be moved up to the top line with Sergei Fedorov and Nikolai Zherdev.  I personally have to wonder if coach MacLean (oops… I mean Gallant) is hoping that Carter will start producing a bit which may make it a little easier to trade him away?  Of course knowing management, they would trade Carter for Gordie Howe or something.  Yeah, bad joke about overpaying for talent that’s over the hill.  Maybe Dave Andreychuk is looking for work?  Okay, seriously I’m done.

Blues: St. Louis is also coming off a four-day rest period.  Winning two of their last eight games, the Blues are hoping that the Blue Jackets give them the same elixir they’ve given other teams lately… a win.  Team leading goal-scorer Bill Guerin (7) has given the Blue Jackets trouble in the past, and I’ve been hearing good things about Lee Stempniak (6-4-10) this year as well.  There are some seasoned veterans (Guerin, Tkachuk, Weight, and Rucinsky to name a few), and some good young talent as well (Stempniak, Jackman, and Backman).  The team struggles in goal, with Manny Legace and Curtis Sanford sharing a 3.24 GAA and an .891 save percentage.  To be fair, this is only a fraction worse than the CBJ netminders have performed.  It is safe to say that neither team has it’s strength in defense. 

Lee Stempniak maneuvers the puck

Talented Blues youngster Lee Stempniak. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Hometown press

Out of town press

Fearless EOB Prediction: The Blue Jackets start the first ten minutes a little rough, but energetic.  The different line combinations at the top shake things up sufficiently and they unload for their biggest game of the season.  Nash loosens the noose and nets two, while the team wins 6-2. 

Thanks for stopping by the End of the Bench.  Feel free to leave a comment on any of the posts, it’s always great to hear from readers. 

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