On it's face, having the Flyers come to town on the heels of the Jackets' worst performance of the year seems like adding insult to injury, but scratch the surface and there is cause for optimism.
Philly is coming off of a bad whipping by Chicago last night, 5 - 1, and is suffering from their own injury issues. Biron was not very good last night, and has over a 3.0 GAA this year, with a Save % below .900. Antero Niittymaki is projected to start in goal tonight. Briere is also out, and both Timonen and Hartnell were hurt in last night's game. Timonen is out a week or so, while Hartnell is day to day.
Speaking of Briere -- he is scheduled to come off IR this week, which presents a dilemma to the Flyers. With both Briere and defenseman Ryan Parent coming back, Philly will be almost $2 million over the salary cap. Rumblings have a Briere -and somebody-for-Bouwmeester trade with Florida on the horizon. Hmmm -- cap troubles? Happen to be in Columbus just as the Holiday Freeze is expiring? Something in the works, maybe?
Bottom line to the game tonight is that we need to come out hard, play aggressive defense and be more active in the offensive zone. Don't hold onto the puck so long, and fire when we get inside Danny Gare's triangle (goal and two faceoff dots as the vertices). We have had a few days to work on new line combinations, so no excuses for anything short of a full 60 minutes of hockey.
Trade rumors are rife in Columbus these days, with Doug Weight being the name mentioned most frequently. Don't be surprised, however, if Howson does something a little more significant, either instead of or in addition to the Weight deal. Howson has been playing things very close to the vest, which leads me to believe that he has something up his sleeve. Stay tuned . . .
Finally, the trade speculation is fueled in large part by a frenzy of panic that has overtaken CBJ land since the injury to Brass and the consecutive shutouts to Phoenix and LA. Panic is premature. We are badly nicked right now, just as guys were starting to become cohesive units. While Brassard's skill will be sorely missed, it is more his fit in the whole system that is fouling up the works. With both Brass and Chimera gone, two of our best forecheckers are out. We create lots of havoc, and hence opportunities, when our forecheck is working, and I guarantee that one of Hitchcock's top priorities over the past few days has been to put that in place.
We will get through this rough patch, and still be in the race, barring further injury. We need to start tonight with a solid effort. Go Jackets!!!