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Ducks @ Blue Jackets PREVIEW: Quieting The Cannon

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Will Anaheim rediscover its offense in Columbus?

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Anaheim Ducks
Nick Ritchie and Pierre-Luc Dubois were not exactly friendly last March in Anaheim.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Game 5

Date: Friday, October 11th, 2019

Time: 4:00 PM PT

Location: Nationwide Arena - Columbus, OH

TV: Fox Sports Prime Ticket

Radio: AM 830

Your Enemy: Jackets Cannon


The Anaheim Ducks have managed to keep the score close in every game so far. After winning home contests against the Arizona Coyotes and San Jose Sharks, they rode a strange third period to a road win over the Detroit Red Wings. The streak came to an end with Thursday’s 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh, but Anaheim has the opportunity to make this a quality trip with a win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. For what it’s worth, the Penguins were able to defeat Columbus 7-2 on Saturday.

Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins made the point that the Ducks have been playing plenty of low-scoring games. As a result, avoiding penalties can be vital to winning when the offense is not hitting on all cylinders. In net, Eakins will likely turn to Ryan Miller in the second half of back-to-back contests for his first action since playing the third period of an exhibition game against Arizona on September 28.

The Blue Jackets gained national attention last postseason when they eliminated the President’s Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning. Not only was that the franchise’s first playoff series win ever, it was a sweep of the favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately for fans in Ohio, the Jackets would fall to Boston in the next round. That triggered a mass exodus in free agency which included goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and sniper Artemi Panarin.

In addition, last season’s trade acquisitions Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel turned out to be merely rentals with Duchene heading to Nashville and Dzingel going to Carolina. General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen was able to sign Gustav Nyquist and Riley Nash to fill out the forward ranks. Meanwhile, rookies Emil Bemstrom and Jakob Lilja are getting their first action in the NHL. The defensive corps is comprised of mostly familiar faces, although Vladislav Gavrikov appeared in only two games for the Jackets last season.

The Blue Jackets last played on Monday and grabbed their first victory in a 4-3 overtime affair against the Buffalo Sabres. Rookie Alexandre Texier broke the deadlock with a wrist shot from the slot. While Columbus has a 1-2 record, the team did outshoot Buffalo 44-18. Cam Atkinson, arguably the most dangerous Columbus forward, potted a power play goal. Seth Jones is a real difference maker on defense and contributed an assist on the opening tally. Pierre-Luc Dubois, who also got himself a helper, is just 21 years of age but has scored at least 20 goals in a season twice.

Injured forward Josh Anderson has been ruled out for the matchup with the Ducks which leaves Columbus with only 12 healthy forwards. Scott Harrington and Dean Kukan were the healthy scratches on defense against Buffalo. Last season’s backup Joonas Korpisalo has inherited the starting goaltender duties with youngster Elvis Merzlikins as the understudy.

Storylines

1. Who will be the first to two?

Leaguewide, this season has already been full of surprises. Detroit’s Anthony Mantha and Edmonton’s James Neal have each scored four goals in a single game. Mika Zibanejad of the New York Rangers has racked up eight points in only two games. For Anaheim, nine players have scored a single goal and a new leader could emerge from Friday’s tilt.

Centers: Ryan Getzlaf, Derek Grant, Adam Henrique

Wings: Jakob Silfverberg, Ondrej Kase, Rickard Rakell, Nick Ritchie

Defensemen: Cam Fowler, Michael Del Zotto

2. Will the Anaheim power play break the seal?

After three unproductive power plays against the Penguins, the Ducks have not scored on nine opportunities with the extra man this season. Only three other teams are scoreless on the power play. The Jackets already have three power play goals in their first nine chances.

3. How often will the cannon sound?

Even broadcasters have noted how loud the Civil War tribute cannon is after the Blue Jackets find the back of the net. Columbus has mustered seven goals in three matches but did show some signs of life against the Sabres. Thankfully, the Ducks have come to trust Miller’s abilities between the pipes. The .928 save percentage he enjoyed in 2017-18 was the second best mark of his career. Last season did not live up to that standard, but it was still solid from the standpoint of a backup goaltender. Currently, the Ducks lead the league in goals allowed with 1.25 per game.