The Columbus Blue Jackets are getting better as of late, with Rick Nash shaking off his funk and Jeff Carter rounding into form. Unfortunately for them, the Blues're on a hot streak that could derail the Jackets' plans for tonight.
The Blue Jackets aren't as terrible as people make them out to be, which is why their start to the season confused people initially. Then attentions shifted to the goaltender, Steve Mason, who was absolutely abysmal. Unfortunately for Mason, he was struck down with a concussion; as soon as back-up goaltender Curtis Sanford was available to play, coach Scott Arniel put him in net. The result? A 4-1-2 record for the second half of the month of November and a steadily improving team. They've won three out of their last four games, and so far in the month of November Sanford's GAA is a 1.34.
Of course, tonight's starter for the Blues has better numbers. Brian Elliott is expected to be in net tonight after a 2-0 shutout against the Calgary Flames on Friday. Elliott has a teeny 0.99 GAA this month, and is still leading the league in GAA (1.34) and save percentage (.951). For those of you who may or may not be mathematically challenged, that last number means that he stops shots 95% of the time - that's amazing for any goaltender, and extremely fortuitous for the Blues. While Jaroslav Halak is getting sharper as Ken Hitchcock's tenure as coach continues (2.57 GAA, .895 SV%), Elliott seems to be the team's security blanket.
Columbus' top scorers are finally scoring. Rick Nash scored twice in their win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, and since coming back from injury, Jeff Carter has eight points in twelve games. David Backes has been playing exceedingly well for the Blues, though, scoring four goals in the past five games. Teammate T.J. Oshie, despite seemingly facing injury on a game-ly basis, has scored five goals and four assists this month while being an absolute forchecking machine for the Blues.
This is also the first game against the Blues for two former team members: recently traded Nikita Nikitin and former Blues goalie Curtis Sanford. This is also the first time Kris Russell is facing his former team; he already has two goals as a member of the Blues, and will be extra motivated to score another tonight.
It's absolutely necessary for St. Louis to get two points against teams who have roughly half as many wins on the season as they do. They got two from the Western Conference's third-worst team on Friday. Now's a chance to get two more tonight - if they can dominate the Penguins, Blackhawks, and Red Wings under Hitch, there's no reason that they can't do the same to the Blue Jackets.