directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Buffalo Sabres @ Columbus Blue Jackets 09/23/07 5:00 P.M. EST

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Buffalo Sabres @ Columbus Blue Jackets 09/23/07 5:00 P.M. EST

The Jackets are 2-2 going into their 5th preseason game tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. This is the back end of a back to back with the Sabres. The first game saw the Jackets pounce on a Sabres squad that was playing their first preseason game of the season with a 4-1 win in a very physical affair. Tonight should be a much different game. Here is the Jackets lineup according to Portzline's blog:

Jason Chimera - Derick Brassard - Gilbert Brule
Nikolai Zherdev - Sergei Fedorov - Jiri Novotny
Tom Sestito - Kris Beech - Adam Pineault
Jody Shelley - Derek MacKenzie - Steve Goertzen

Marc Methot - Ron Hainsey
Joel Bouchard - Kris Russell
Mikko Maenpaa - Sheldon Brookbank

Pascal Leclaire
Tomas Popperle

No Sabres lineup available yet but will post it when it does become available.

Some things to look for today:

This is an interesting lineup. The first thing that strikes me is Brassard centering the top line w/ Brule on the wing, which seems to be a staple in camp, and Jason Chimera who has arguably been the Jackets best forward flanked on the left. Its seems like Chimera has played every game this preseason. Brassard and Brule are on the bubble and are both making very strong cases to make this team right out of camp. They'll both come ready to play tonight.

The Russians in Fedorov and Zherdev are skating together tonight. What's odd is seeing Z on the left side which would complete the hat trick of sorts. He's played center then right wing and now left wing. Both of these guys have had very underwhelming camps up to this point, especially Fedorov who looks to be coasting towards retirement if he doesn't pick his game up. Novotny flanks both of these two on the wing after playing as a center the last outing. Word is that the coaching staff was very pleased with his play last game so lets see where his game goes tonight -- he's a lock for this team but the jury is still out as to where he'll play in the lineup.

Beech and Pineault are back in the lineup this game and will be given further looks. I believe this is Beech's first chance to center a line so he'll be looking to make a mark tonight with the coaching staff. Pineault will most likely be sent back down to Syracuse after tonight's game so this will most likely be his final chance to make an impression. The 6'4" 209 lber Sestito has pleased the coaching staff this year and is looking to carve out a niche on this team - perhaps as a 4th liner in a Shelley-esque roll when required. Shelley is certainly feeling a little heat. This kid had 42 goals last year for Plymouth so I hope his development doesn't stop at an "enforcer" role -- this kid has the potential to be much more useful. He's a guy to keep an eye on.

Finally we have the Shelley-McKenzie-Goertzen line. There were certainly some fireworks in the last meeting on Friday between these two teams with Buffalo enforcer Peters taking a cheap shot at Jared Boll which resulted in his ejection. I'm not sure if Peters will be in the lineup tonight but if he is, Hitch has inserted Shelley into this lineup to keep things honest out there. McKenzie and Goerzten are pluggers who have had good camps. Goertzen has no problem dropping the gloves if the game dictates it.

On to the defensemen. Not much experience in the lineup tonight in fact only one NHL regular is in the lineup in Ron Hainsey. Outside of Hainsey the rest of the group has a total of 23 NHL games between them.

Wonder kid Kris Russell is back in the lineup again tonight. He has arguably been our best d-man through camp. The coaching staff is taking a long look at this kid and giving him a good test with multiple preseason games to make sure he's up the physical grind at the NHL level. At this point there is anyone, including myself, who are questions whether or not this kid's skill level is NHL ready because it certainly is. Its the physical part of the game that is getting evaluated now.

Marc Methot has certainly picked up where he left off last year and looks strong thus far. He'll see some time this year on the big team. Sheldon Brookbank is sloooow but he is positionally solid and is a big physical presence out there - he'll start the year in the AHL and may be sent back down as soon as tomorrow. Joel Bourchard is here on a PTO and b/c of his food positioning its been hard to get a read on where he stands he'll look to make another statement tonight. Finally Mikko Maenpaa rounds out the defensive unit tonight. He has actually looked much better than when I first saw him at prospect camp but is ticketed for the AHL.

Leclaire makes his second start tonight and according to Portzline is scheduled to go the full game tonight. He has looked health thus far which is the key for him. He's got the talent he just needs to show he's durable. Tomas Popperle will back him. He'll be the starting goaltender for the Syracuse Crunch this season.

As far as the game in general. It should be a spirited affair if its anything like Friday's game. Now that Buffalo has shaken some of the rust off they should also be much more competitive last night. The Jackets will need to continue to capitalize on their powerplay opportunities and play a solid unit positionally. They are trying to develop an identity as a hard checking physical team to play against so look for that to continue.

Little surprised Jared Boll is not in the lineup tonight. Hopefully he's okay after taking a sucker punch from Buffalo enforcer Peters. Boll has a very good shot to make this team and I know the coaching staff wants to continue to take a long look at him. I haven't heard anything about him being injured so perhaps he's just got the night off to make room to look at some other guys.

No TV again tonight unless you can get to work (which I can't).

You can listen to the game on and - at least should be able to. There was a mix up on Friday's game and for whatever reason no one could get the game online.

Lets see if the Jackets can get their first preseason win at home tonight.

Have a nice Sunday everyone.


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