Blue Jackets @ Ducks Preview

John Grieshop

The Ducks begin their final week before the Olympic break by hosting one of the hotter teams in the league, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus is becoming quite the streaky team. They've won their last two games, prior to that they had lost three in a row and before that they had put together quite the month of January with an eight game winning streak. Thanks to that January performance the Jackets now find themselves right in the hunt for a playoff spot, sitting third in the Metro Division.

Keys to the Game: That hot streak in January coincided (though it shouldn't be considered coincidental) with the debut of Nathan Horton into the CBJ lineup as well as the return of last year's Vezina winner, Sergei Bobrovsky, as such those are the two players to watch.

The signing of Horton is perhaps the biggest coup in franchise history for the Blue Jackets. Of course they had Rick Nash for many years, but Horton is really the first truly desirable free agent to come to Columbus in the team's short and dark history. And in true Columbus style, they missed out on the first 40 games of his eight year contract, while he recovered from shoulder surgery. In his 15 games this season he's already racked up nine points (4-5-9).

Bobrovsky is a slightly different story. His Vezina winning performance last season nearly got the Jackets into the playoffs (wouldn't it have been nice if they did and the Ducks wouldn't have had to play Detroit?) which paved the way for John Davidson and Jarmo Kekelainen to bring Horton in. He hasn't been able to replicate the numbers that he put up in his breakout season going from a 2.00 goals against average to 2.54 and .932 to 9.16 save percentage. Since returning from a groin injury that kept him out 12 games (and handed the crease to former Duck Curtis McEleinney) Bob has gone 9-2 with a 9.15 Sv% and 2.09 GAA, implying that while he hasn't returned to Vezina form, the team has been playing better in front of him than they were pre-injury.

One player the Ducks won't have to deal with is Marian Gaborik who is on injured reserve with a broken collar bone. This year seems to be a call back to the injury prone Gaborik we saw in Minnesota as he missed 17 games with a knee injury, came back for one and promptly went back on the IR.

What Can We Learn From This Game: Last time out it was Artem Anisimov who gave the Ducks all they could handle, scoring two goals (including a shorty). Also Brandon Dubinsky was a force to be reckoned with before he was ejected for his hit on Saku Koivu that indirectly (according to the league) led to Koivu's concussion. And despite being on the power play for 11 minutes to Columbus' two (right at the end of the game) the Ducks barely held on for the win in a crazy game.

This is not a game the Ducks can take lightly, which is what I fear they've been doing of late. Similar to last year they seem to have started to rest on their laurels after an incredible start to the season and are beginning to coast into the playoffs. We all know how that turned out, and the Ducks need to find a way to stop the bleeding, even if it's just a trickle for now.

Complacency is the Ducks' biggest enemy at the moment and whether it's the motivation of the Presidents' Trophy or the refreshment of the Olympic break (for some) the Ducks need to get back on track to stay sharp for the post season.

Fearless Prediction: Taking their cues from the Super Bowl last night, Columbus scores an own goal off the opening faceoff and goes on to lose 8-1. Probably would have been more likely with any other incarnation of the Blue Jackets,but let's go with it.

Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.

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