The last time the Kings visited the Blue Jackets, the game was all about the Carter/Johnson trade. This game will be all about the trade too (and likely every one after that); but I'm more interested in the three young players Columbus acquired for Nash, who will all be playing key positions tonight. With the additions of Dubinsky, Anisimov, and Erixon, this is a much different team than the one we saw last March.
Dubinsky and Anisimov, the current top two centers, are both good young players who handle tough minutes. Anisimov already has 4 goals.
Let's look at the rosters.
Blue Jackets Projected Lineup
Kings Projected Lineup
Richardson centered the 4th line in the last practice, but Lisa Dillman said he was an extra skater today. We'll see what happens.
- Columbus has suffered a weird streak of injuries to their defensemen, rivaling the Red Wings in that area. #2 overall pick Ryan Murray would have started the season with them, but he separated his shoulder during the lockout. They're also missing Nikita Nikitin, James Wisniewski, and Adrian Aucoin. Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson are #1 and #2 in the NHL for average minutes logged; we'll likely see both spend half the game again out there tonight. The Kings need to take advantage of this depleted defense.
- Simon Gagne has quietly put together a couple of good games in a row, and moves on up to the second line. Sutter's been waiting for his left wings to perform at a consistently high level. Hopefully Gagne is the solution, because Penner isn't going to be anytime soon.
- Today I started thinking about how every team must get fired up to play the defending champions. Meanwhile, Los Angeles seems to have brought the most intensity in games against their old playoff rivals. The Kings need to match that intensity and focus no matter who they play. They're not going to make the playoffs without it.
- The Kings have a couple games in hand on most teams in the West. Let's hope they turn those into regulation wins, because between February's road trips and the packed schedule in March, there's no time to mess around. They can't afford preseason-like games any longer.
- They also really need redemption games from Quick. Sutter declared he plans to start him "every game." I'm not sure that's tongue in cheek.