It's been a while since the Blue Jackets have had a "home weekend" at Nationwide Arena.
|DETROIT RED WINGS|
13-38-4 (30 points)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7 P.M. – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 7
FOX SPORTS OHIO
FOX SPORTS GO
Both games in their back-to-back set – tonight vs. the Detroit Red Wings, and tomorrow the Colorado Avalanche – will be played on home ice in front of what we expect to be sold-out crowds. Thanks to a 18-2-5 heater over the last couple of months, the Blue Jackets have lit the fuse once again in central Ohio.
And they would be wise not to look past the Red Wings, who do have a lousy record but have given teams a tough time this season. Detroit is pacing for one of the worst point totals in the modern era but, this is the NHL, and there are no easy games. Especially when you're a team like the Blue Jackets and you're in a hotly-contested playoff race, and every point is so valuable to your cause.
You can bet that will be part of John Tortorella's message to his team prior to tonight's game: keep doing what you're doing, regardless of who lines up on the opposite side. No team should take any opponent lightly, but there's a natural mindset that sets in when you know you're playing a team beneath you in the standings. The Blue Jackets a) should not be indulging this attitude and b) have done a pretty good job of avoiding it this season, save for their sluggish 2-1 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres last weekend.
These two teams have played entertaining games this season, with the Blue Jackets hanging on for a 5-4 win on Nov. 21 at Nationwide Arena, then scratching out a 5-3 win on Dec. 17 at Little Caesars Arena. If you like offense, the Blue Jackets and Red Wings have provided it in two prior meetings – so, you may want to bet the over tonight.
Here's a look at tonight's projected lines for the Blue Jackets:
- Start On Time. Tortorella did not like his team's practice on Thursday, telling reporters he thought his team "sucked (today)." The head coach has been guarding heavily against letting the Blue Jackets' recent run of success go to their heads because there's so much season left, and he was not pleased with how they practiced. The Blue Jackets must get out to a strong start at home tonight and set the pace early.
- All Aboard. This weekend's set of games might seem like a benefit on the surface, but coaches are always mindful of having this much time at home. The Blue Jackets have been home all week and they'll have a full weekend of games to deal with, including a tough opponent on Saturday. Their team-first, "do your job" approach is especially important this weekend.
- Energy Efficient. Nationwide Arena is expected to be full for both games this weekend and the fans will give the Blue Jackets a jolt out of the gate – but sustaining that energy throughout has been a challenge. The Blue Jackets have struggled for 10-15 minute segments of games and, lately, they've been able to overcome. When you have a good crowd and a good thing going, it's crucial to stay focused.