Blue Jackets-Red Wings Preview
A shootout win has put last-place Columbus in position for its first home-and-home sweep of Central Division-leading Detroit.
Not having to face the Red Wings' top goaltender or one of their steadier forwards could make things a little easier for the Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets (21-20-3) squandered a two-goal lead before beating the Red Wings 3-2 Friday on Antoine Vermette's game-winner in the fourth round of the tiebreaker past journeyman Joey MacDonald. Now on his third team in three seasons, McDonald turned aside all 21 shots he faced through overtime after replacing the injured Howard in the first period.
Howard, who has 22 wins to tie Anaheim's Jonas Hiller for the NHL lead, suffered a bruised right knee after blocking a shot from Columbus' Derrick Brassard. X-rays were negative, but coach Mike Babcock said Howard wouldn't play when the teams meet again and is day-to-day.
"He's not available, so he won't be able to go (Saturday),'' Babcock said, indicating an emergency backup would likely be recalled from the Red Wings' AHL team in Grand Rapids while 401-game winner Chris Osgood is recovering from sports hernia surgery.
The Red Wings also lost Holmstrom for a month with a broken hand suffered in the third period. Howard and Holmstrom (11 goals, 11 assists in 44 games) join a long injury list that includes Pavel Datsyuk (broken hand), Dan Cleary (broken ankle) and Brad Stuart (broken jaw).
"That's just the way it goes sometimes,'' Babcock said. "You get injuries and you just have to fight through them.''
Jakub Voracek and Grant Clitsome gave the Blue Jackets an early lead before Howard's injury. The Red Wings (27-11-6), second in the Western Conference with 60 points, rallied with second-period goals from Drew Miller and Jiri Hudler.
Columbus had lost five straight since beating Ottawa on New Year's Eve.
"We wanted to stop the bleeding,'' first-year Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. "We had to find a way to get back into the win column.''
Getting back there again won't be so easy even with Detroit battling the injury bug. Detroit and Columbus have met nine times in a home-and-home set with the Red Wings sweeping three of the last four such matchups, including a 2-1 road victory Nov. 26, and a 4-2 win two nights later at home.
Only once have the Blue Jackets entered the back end of a home-and-home with the Red Wings after a win, and ended up falling 5-0 on Dec. 20, 2006, in Detroit.
The Red Wings have won four straight at home over Columbus. The Blue Jackets have totaled eight goals during that skid following an 8-2 win on March 7, 2009, in Detroit.
Rick Nash leads Columbus with 20 goals, but hasn't scored in seven straight games against the Red Wings.