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Blue Jackets @ Ducks: The Gritty Game Preview

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The Columbus Blue Jackets are back in town, but don't underestimate them just because they're riddled with injuries... plus a BOGcast Extra interview with Matt Wagner of CBJ blog The Cannon.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

[Ed. Note:  Due to some scheduling issues, there won't be a full episode off the BOGcast this week, but Eric was able to catch up with Matt Wagner of SBN's Blue Jackets blog The Cannon.  Check that interview out here, and stay tuned to AC for another mini-BOGcast chat between Eric and Calvin Hobbes of Die by the Blade (and Royal Blue Mersey) -CK]

The  Columbus Blue Jackets have a tough test ahead of them as they head toward the Bermuda Triangle of the NHL...California. First stop, San Jose (a 5-4 comeback win last night). Second stop, Anaheim. And lastly the gates of hell (aka off the 110 freeway).

Game Notes:

The Blue Jackets will be a team that we will all continue to keep an eye because of their inconsistencies. What exactly are they? Well right now, they are pitiful and injury-bitten rag-tag bunch of young players that are eager to prove themselves in the big boys league. Here is a brief low-down of losses on the Columbus team:

Our best wishes are with Right Wing Nathan Horton since a couple of days ago, news broke reporting his career in jeopardy after being recently diagnosed with a degenerative spinal condition (hear more about it from the great Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch on yesterday's episode of Marek vs. Wyshynski).

In addition to Horton who is out indefinitely, Center Brandon Dubinsky has been out with an abdomen issue. Boone Jenner is out with a broken hand. Ryan Murray is listed as day-to-day with a knee injury. And Anton Forsberg was recently called up to back up Sergei Bobrovsky after back-up goaltender Curtis McElhinney was put on IR.

With that being said, the Blue Jackets are far from the Buffalo Sabres of the Metro Division. Despite their injury-depleted line-up, they have a 3-2 record thus far, having beaten the Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, and the Calgary Flames. They are known to be big and hard-hitting players with a relentless grinding style of play. The addition of Scott Hartnell during the off-season only added to the beefiness of this team.

Nick Foligno (2G and 5A) and Ryan Johansen (3G and 4A) both lead the Jackets tallying seven points each, and each earning at least one point in each of the Jackets' first five games.  Cam Atkinson has also began the season with a solid start, on a points-per-game pace thus far.

All this great and all, now what can the Ducks do against these foes? While the Blue Jackets have mustered surprisingly impressive numbers offensively (11th in the NHL in scoring), defensive breakdowns is what will eventually lead to their demise. The Ducks have greater speed and forecheck skill through all four lines. Against a goaltender like Bobrovsky, who is known for being extremely stingy in giving up goals, the Ducks will have to create traffic in front of the net, run cycles, and tire out the defense corps. While the Jackets have had a 100% success rate on the PK, they tend to show defensive holes on the 5-on-5 play.

The Jackets will be playing back-to-back, heading to Anaheim after having played the San Jose Sharks Thursday night. The Ducks should look forward to jumping on the team early on.

What Can We Learn From this Game:

The Ducks will have to find a balance between speed and grinding-style of play. Last season, there were games in which the Ducks would be held back by attempting to imitate that same style of play. Instead of doing so, the Ducks should take advantage of their greater speed and skill and expose the inexperienced youth of the Jackets.

The Ducks are riding a six-game winning streak and grabbing another two points will be important as they head into the last home game in this 3-home-game series against Pacific rival, San Jose Sharks. The Ducks will want to enter Sunday's game with momentum, so that they can head back on the road with confidence.

Lastly, it should also be interesting what Bruce Boudreau decides to do in net. Frederik Andersen is indeed due a night off, and John Gibson was called back up earlier this week after a brief stint in Norfolk. It is obvious that Andersen will begin this season as the Ducks' number one goaltender, but as seen last season, that can change in an moment. Keep an eye on net performance.

Fearless Prediction:

John Gibson reminds everyone why he is an American Hero and posts a shutout on his night back starting on Honda Center ice.

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.