Looking forward to the 2012-13 schedule, there are a few games that already are drawing the attention of the fan base so we’re putting these together into a “Schedule Showcase”. The optimist in us has us believing in the schedule as defined (no lockout) and looking towards the first Friday night game at Nationwide against an in-conference opponent. October 26th against the Minnesota Wild. Last season had the Jackets going 2-1 against the Wild, and with the off-season acquisitions of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, the Wild certainly became a “team to watch”. Consider also that Minnesota is the former home of our head coach, Todd Richards, and winger, Colton Gilles, and this match up looks to be one that will not only be entertaining, but also a good benchmark for what these new Jackets will bring to the ice.
Here at Union Blue, we’re going to take a quick look at what to watch for, what new players are on the horizon for this match-up in the form of a prospect spotlight, and the game experience. So let’s get on with it!
GAME OVERVIEW (from Canadan82)
The significance of this game can extend back to the origins of each franchise, as Columbus and Minnesota share a very similar entrance into the National Hockey League. More notably, however, this rivalry heated up early last year. Columbus managed a 1-0-1 pre-season record against Minnesota, but it came at a price. James Wisniewski seemed to have tolerated his limit of Cal Clutterbuck, and in what seemed to be a situation where Clutterbuck was going to charge Wiz after the whistle, a fairly well known elbow was thrown. Just like that, one of Columbus’ big time summer acquisitions was suspended for the remainder of the pre-season and eight games of the regular season. The season series ended in a tie at two wins apiece, but the turmoil and dislike, at least for those watching in Nationwide, grew and grew. It should be a realistic expectation for these teams to continue their budding rivalry, despite the new faces in the dressing rooms.
LINE MATCH-UPS (from The Coach)
The match-ups in this game will be compelling. It will provide one of the first glances at how Todd Richards and the rest of the coaching staff plan on deploying the forwards and defensemen. There are few lines in the league that can match the talent of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Dany Heatley, and there are few teams with a talent like Ryan Suter on the back-end. However, the Wild are a pretty top heavy team. Unless the Wild change their mind and split up their big guns, they are a team that is ripe for line-matching. Will Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin be matched against them exclusively? Or will Richards try and fight fire with fire, and use the “Controlled Chaos” pair of Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski? More importantly, how will the forwards look? Will a straight checking line featuring players like Dorsett and Mackenzie be iced against them? Or will some of the defensively capable talent acquired this summer be utilized? If it were up to me, Parise, Koivu, Heatley and Suter will get very used to Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Nick Foligno, Tyutin and Nikitin.
PROSPECT SPOTLIGHT: Mikael Granlund MINN (from CBJProspects)
Granlund was the Wild’s first round pick in 2010 being selected out of Finland. Granlund is a skilled forward who’s already gained internet notoriety for a goal he scored at the 2011 World Juniors against Russia when he put the puck in the net lacrosse style. The goal was so revered, it even made it onto a postage stamp. The Hockey News named Granlund the team’s top prospect and 2nd best prospect in last season’s “Future Watch” edition. More recently, Granlund has been tearing up the SM-Liiga scoring 40 points in 43 games at 17, tying for the league lead in playoff scoring at 18, and leading his team in scoring last season. Team Finland coach Jukka Jalonen said this about Granlund: “He’s a intelligent player and a intelligent person, which is why he’s been able to adapt to new circumstances”. In the Future Watch issue they’re already putting Granlund as a Calder Trophy candidate and the Wild are hoping he can break their streak of not developing an NHL player from a 1st round pick since 2003.
WHY WE’RE JOINING THE BATTLE: (from AlisonL)
Minnesota is the little team that could. While we’re still looking to develop some playoff consistency, Minny has gotten into the post season far more regularly. So the Wild represent all that we can be – they also have done just enough to tick us off. The Suter/Parise moneyfest aside, Cal Clutterbuck still serves as a lightening rod in Jacket fans’ minds for the downward spiral of 2011. Give us a Friday night when fans can gather a bit before the game, and come out to Nationwide without the burden of work the next day, and emotions should be high. This game will also be #6 on the schedule – arguably we’ll still be sorting out some of our line combinations and seeing how our new team members fit into Richie’s style of play. But, by this point, we should expect to begin seeing what this team is all about. Fans can find a lot to cheer for in addition to our team pride – let’s bring Richie another win against the team that let him go and show that big time roster what our guys can do. Also – those jerseys? Well they’re easy to root against.