Wild-Blue Jackets Preview
The Minnesota Wild are known for great goaltending.
The Columbus Blue Jackets won’t have last season’s Vezina Trophy
winner for an extended period of time.
The Wild seek a third straight win Friday night when they visit
a Blue Jackets team adjusting to life without Sergei Bobrovsky.
These teams battled to the final day of the regular season in
2012-13, with Minnesota edging out Columbus for the Western
Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. While the Blue Jackets
have moved to the East, the Wild have shown that they have learned
from their first-round loss to eventual Stanley Cup champion
Chicago by beating the Blackhawks in two of three meetings this
season, including Thursday’s 4-3 home win.
”Against a team like Chicago, coming back, it feels good,”
said Marco Scandella, who scored the winner with 1:48 left. ”It’s
a great feeling in the room right now. We battled all game. We
stuck with it, which is the important thing.”
Josh Harding made 16 saves to improve to 15-4-3 with a
league-best 1.52 goals-against average. If he doesn’t start, it’ll
be Niklas Backstrom – who he has a 1.95 GAA in his last three
Minnesota (16-8-5) ranks fourth in the NHL with a 2.20 GAA.
Columbus (11-14-3) won’t be able to count on Bobrovsky, placed
on injured reserve Wednesday with a groin strain that will sideline
him for four to five weeks. He suffered the injury in Tuesday’s 1-0
victory over Tampa Bay.
Curtis McElhinney finished that shutout with eight saves and
will take over as the starter.
“Based on Curtis’ play what I’ve seen so far this year, there’s
nothing for me that would lead to suggest that I’m expecting bad
things,” coach Todd Richards said. “In the games that he’s played,
he’s played well.”
Minnesota ended a 0-for-11 drought on the power play by scoring
twice in three chances Thursday. Coach Mike Yeo, however, wasn’t
too giddy about beating the reigning champions.
“We don’t have a whole lot of time to get too emotional about
this one, to be honest with you,” Yeo said. “It’s a good win, but
we’ve got another test tomorrow. They’re (the Blue Jackets) sitting
there waiting for us, they didn’t play tonight. It’s going to be a
good challenge. We’ve got a lot of respect for that team, we know
that they’re going to play very hard in their building.”
The Wild went 2-0-1 against the Blue Jackets last season and
will face a Columbus team missing former Minnesota star Marian
Gaborik and Nathan Horton.
The Blue Jackets will have forward Derek MacKenzie, activated
off injured reserve Thursday after he missed five games with a
Columbus is seeking consecutive victories for the first time
since a three-game win streak Oct. 20-25. The Blue Jackets have
alternated wins and losses in their last nine.
“Do you have an answer? Because I’ve tried,” Richards said
Tuesday. ”Tonight was a good step. I think there’s things we can
build off. It doesn’t guarantee anything against Minnesota on
Minnesota’s Ryan Suter has 13 points in an eight-game streak