NHL

Blue Jackets need win, and some help, on Saturday

Share This Story

   
 

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)

It might be the most important regular-season game in Columbus Blue Jackets history - or maybe just the end of a remarkable turnaround.

When they host the Nashville Predators on Saturday night in the final game on their schedule, the Blue Jackets still hold out hope of making the Stanley Cup playoffs.

''We were just talking in the back, the coaches, and our players have earned this opportunity,'' coach Todd Richards said after Thursday night's 3-1 win at Dallas. ''Granted, we still need some help, but it's going to make for a great environment on Saturday in our building. I'm sure the fans are going to be loud and behind us. The players have earned that - and I think the fans have earned it, too.''

For fans used to a team playing out the string, this has been a welcome jolt of optimism. The club was 30th of the 30 NHL teams a year ago, and was trolling the depths of the league two months ago.

Since then, the doubters have been quieted.

''All the people who doubt you, you know, let `em doubt,'' said forward Cam Atkinson, who had two goals in the victory over the Stars. ''All that matters is the guys in the locker room and what we're doing.''

What they're doing is almost incomprehensible for followers of the team, annually one of the worst in the NHL.

On Feb. 26, the Blue Jackets had the worst record in the league (5-12-2). Since then they have gone 18-5-5 to vault into a tie with Minnesota with 53 points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West heading into Friday night's action.

In order to make the playoffs, the Blue Jackets must beat floundering Nashville while seventh-place Detroit (54 points) loses its regular-season finale in regulation at Dallas, also on Saturday and at the same time.

That, however, would end the Red Wings' 21-year string of making the playoffs, something the veterans in Hockeytown have vowed won't happen on their watch.

Columbus also has a long shot of making it in if Minnesota manages just one point in its final two games, at home against Edmonton on Friday and at Colorado on Saturday. That would require a major collapse by the talented Wild, who can clinch a postseason spot with one win of any variety. And that option could already be eliminated before the Blue Jackets take the ice for the final game of their 12th season.

So rest assured that the Blue Jackets will be keeping an eye on the scores from Dallas. And they'll be rooting like crazy for the Stars.

''Dallas? Yeah, hopefully they do us a favor,'' said Pittsburgh castoff Mark Letestu, who became the Blue Jackets' goals leader with his 13th, the game-winner in the third period, against the Stars.

The primary emphasis is on taking care of their own business.

''First, we worry about ourselves,'' said forward Marian Gaborik, acquired from the New York Rangers at the trade deadline. ''But everybody gets on the phone after a game and watches the scores around the league, what's going on. That's just the nature.''

No one will have to check their phones. A capacity crowd at Nationwide Arena will undoubtedly be tuned into the happenings at American Airlines Center.

Even if they fall short, the Blue Jackets have gained from the experience of winning and contending. They've also piled up some eye-popping numbers during their rejuvenation.

- They were 2-4-2 at home at one time, but are 11-1-3 since.

- They were 2-8-0 in first 10 road games but went 8-4-2 in their last 14, including 7-2-0 in the last nine.

- Sergei Bobrovsky, the front-runner to win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender, was 3-6-3 with an .898 save percentage and a 2.90 goals-against average through February. Since then he is 17-5-3, .946 and 1.62.

Now the season comes down to one night.

''We're going to have to do it again on Saturday. It's going to be a great crowd and a great opportunity and it's going to be a lot of fun,'' center Brandon Dubinsky said. ''The job's not done but we gave ourselves an opportunity.''

---

Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP

Tagged: Stars, Blue Jackets

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



Play Hockey Simulation Game on WhatIfSports

NHL Videos

Toews, Kane: Easy decision to resign with Blackhawks Posted: Jul 17, 2014
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane say their decision to sign matching 8-year, $84M...

LA mayor 'F-bombs' Kings rally Posted: Jun 17, 2014
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti toasts the Stanley Cup champion Kings in front o...

Kings, fans celebrate Stanley Cup Posted: Jun 16, 2014
Kings players celebrate winning the Stanley Cup with a parade through downtown L...

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Reebok Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Premier Hockey Jersey - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Pittsburgh_Penguins/browse/featuredproduct/175178/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_175000/FF_175178_xl.jpg&w=100 159.95 Reebok Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Premier Hockey Jersey - Black
    Reebok Dallas Stars White Premier Hockey Jersey http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Dallas_Stars/browse/featuredproduct/243363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_243000/FF_243363_xl.jpg&w=100 124.95 Reebok Dallas Stars White Premier Hockey Jersey
    Reebok Tampa Bay Lightning Primary Logo T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Tampa_Bay_Lightning/browse/featuredproduct/301017/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_301000/ff_301017_xl.jpg&w=100 19.95 Reebok Tampa Bay Lightning Primary Logo T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Majestic Anaheim Ducks Black Official Logo Full Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Anaheim_Ducks/browse/featuredproduct/398322/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_398000/FF_398322_xl.jpg&w=100 43.99 Majestic Anaheim Ducks Black Official Logo Full Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt
    Detroit Red Wings Youth Black Southpaw Backpack http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Red_Wings/browse/featuredproduct/403205/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_403000/FF_403205_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Detroit Red Wings Youth Black Southpaw Backpack
    Reebok Chicago Blackhawks #88 Patrick Kane Red Premier Hockey Jersey http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Chicago_Blackhawks/browse/featuredproduct/408123/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_408000/FF_408123_xl.jpg&w=100 159.95 Reebok Chicago Blackhawks #88 Patrick Kane Red Premier Hockey Jersey
    Majestic New Jersey Devils Red Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_Jersey_Devils/browse/featuredproduct/456774/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_456000/ff_456774_xl.jpg&w=100 47.99 Majestic New Jersey Devils Red Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt
    Vancouver Canucks 2011 NHL Western Conference Champions Hockey Stick http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Vancouver_Canucks/browse/featuredproduct/665779/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_665000/ff_665779_xl.jpg&w=100 11.95 Vancouver Canucks 2011 NHL Western Conference Champions Hockey Stick
    Majestic New York Islanders Royal Blue Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Islanders/browse/featuredproduct/752594/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_752000/ff_752594_xl.jpg&w=100 47.99 Majestic New York Islanders Royal Blue Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt