Welcome back to The Warmup.
Here, you'll get everything you need to know – including keys to the game, where to watch and listen, and more – before the Blue Jackets and Vancouver Canucks meet for the first time this season on Friday night at Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets are feeling good about themselves coming off a 3-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. Elvis Merzlikins earned a 36-save shutout, his defense was stingy, and Columbus got a timely goal from Zach Werenski in the third period to provide some breathing room. They'll aim for three in a row on Black Friday against the Canucks.
Where to watch, listen and stream tonight's game...
WHO: Blue Jackets (11-6-0) vs. Canucks (6-12-2)
WHERE: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
WHEN: 7 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports Columbus (Jeff Rimer, Jody Shelley)
RADIO: 97.1 FM (Bob McElligott, Dylan Tyrer)
STREAM: ESPN+ (out of market only)
The Blue Jackets are building some momentum–now, the challenge is to maintain it.
They're a young team (one of the youngest in the NHL) and sure, they've been guilty of their share of mistakes. Defensively, Columbus can be erratic at times which asks a lot of its goaltenders, but fortunately the Blue Jackets have a really good one in Merzlikins. Whereas Wednesday's game featured an opponent with plenty of weaponry and a highly-charged emotional storyline with the return of Pierre-Luc Dubois, tonight's game is a bit different.
Vancouver is reeling. Rumors of imminent changes have been percolating for weeks, and the Canucks continue to spiral down the standings. They need a win in the worst way, and they're certain to be a desperate team tonight. The Blue Jackets, to this point, have done a solid job of worrying about their own business; to quote John Tortorella, "they just continue to play."
They'll need a similar all-hands-on-deck effort tonight to bag their 12th win in their first 18 games.
ALL-TIME: The Blue Jackets are 22-29-10 in 61 regular-season meetings with the Canucks, including a 11-15-5 record at Nationwide Arena. The two teams did not meet in the 2020-21 season, but Columbus won both games against Vancouver in 2019-20 and has won the previous three meetings in the series.
KEYS TO THE GAME
What do the Blue Jackets need to do to win tonight? We're glad you asked.
- Don't Let Up: On Wednesday night, the Blue Jackets were engaged right from the drop of the puck. There's been a palpable energy inside Nationwide Arena all season and part of it stems from the way Columbus starts games. That should be no different tonight on a holiday Friday, and it's up to the home team to take advantage of what should be another rowdy environment.
- Business First: Do what you need to do, and focus on that. When the Blue Jackets are playing their hard-forechecking, speedy game, they're a handful. Brad Larsen has used all of his lines and doesn't appear to have many underperformers among his forwards, which makes the competition to get into the lineup a tough one. If they're skating and being relentless on pucks, they're a good team.
- Manage The Puck: We've talked a lot about turnovers...and that's because, unfortunately, the Blue Jackets are guilty of them quite often. They were much cleaner on Wednesday and didn't give the Jets much room in the offensive zone–and most of Merzlikins' 36 saves were not of the high-danger variety. Playing a tight defensive game gives Columbus plenty of opportunities going the other way, and at the same time, it limits the opponent's ability to stretch them out in transition.
From the head coach...