(SportsNetwork.com) – A pair of teams that have gone in opposite directions in
December will meet Wednesday, as the Columbus Blue Jackets host the Minnesota
Wild in a New Year’s Eve battle at Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets entered this month with a 6-15-2 record on the season, but
Todd Richards’ club has greatly improved its fortunes by posting a 9-1-1 mark
so far in December. Despite the surge, Columbus still finds itself nine points
out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Minnesota, meanwhile, sits five points removed from the West’s final wild card
spot after recording a 4-4-3 mark since the start of December. The low point
of the rough month came during a 0-2-3 losing streak, a skid the Wild was able
to snap with Monday’s road victory in Winnipeg.
After dropping the home part of a home-and-home series with the Jets in
Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss, the Wild answered with a close win two days
later in Winnipeg. Ryan Carter, Justin Fontaine and Marco Scandella all scored
in the second period to help Minnesota notch the 3-2 decision at MTS Centre.
Darcy Kuemper. who missed the opener of the home-and-home due to an illness,
was back between the pipes Monday and helped stopped the skid with a 28-save
The Wild picked up the victory despite allowing Winnipeg to score twice on
three chances with the man advantage. Minnesota went 0-for-4 on the power
“Our guys did a great job staying with it. I’m real happy with the way we
played the game, the contributions from everybody,” Wild head coach Mike Yeo
The win pushed Minnesota’s road record this season to 8-9-0. Yeo’s club is
capping a brief two-game trip tonight before opening the 2015 calendar year by
playing four of five games on home ice.
The Blue Jackets are 2-1-1 at the start of a five-game homestand after
beginning December on a seven-game winning streak. The club had an 8-0-1 point
streak snapped with a 5-1 loss to Nashville on Dec. 22, but rebounded from
that setback with a resounding win its first tilt following the Christmas
Columbus emerged from the holiday hiatus on Saturday and recorded a 6-2 win
over the Boston Bruins. Scott Hartnell led the offense by scoring twice in his
return from injury, while Kevin Connauton added a goal and two assists.
Hartnell came back after a five-game absence due to a broken finger and picked
up his third multi-goal effort of the season and first since Nov. 8 against
Tampa Bay. He scored his team’s first two goals on Saturday.
Nick Foligno, Matt Calvert and Jeremy Morin also lit the lamp for the Blue
Jackets. Jack Johnson and Brandon Dubinsky each chipped in a pair of helpers
to back a 26-save effort from Curtis McElhinney.
“He made some big saves … especially at the start of the third period,”
Calvert said of McElhinney.
McElhinney started Saturday in place of No. 1 netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who
was unable to suit up for the game due to an illness. However, Bobrovsky is
expected to start tonight and owns a 3-1-0 record and 1.68 goals against
average in four career games against the Wild.
Saturday’s win pushed the Blue Jackets’ home record to 8-9-2. Columbus will
head out on the road after tonight, as it will begin a four-game swing
Saturday in Arizona.
Columbus has won three straight and five of the last seven meetings against
the Wild. The clubs have split the last four encounters at Nationwide Arena.