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NHL on NBCSN: Detroit, Columbus battle for edge in Wild Card race

Mar 25, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 11: James Wisniewski #21 of the Columbus Blue Jackets gets called for delay of game after knocking the net loose during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings on March 11, 2014 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Getty Images

NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the Columbus Blue Jackets host the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena at 7:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Red Wings are one of the oldest and most successful franchises in the history of the league while the Blue Jackets are in their 13th campaign and don’t have much to show for their efforts.

Columbus has never even won a playoff game, given that they were swept by the Red Wings in the first round of the 2009 postseason. That was only time the Blue Jackets had ever even secured a playoff berth, but Detroit has accomplished that feat 22 seasons in a row.

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And yet, even if they are at completely different ends of the spectrum from a historical perspective, these two teams are in roughly the same boat now. Both of them are fighting for one of the two Wild Card spots in the Eastern Conference, making this one of the most important games either team has played so far this season.

The Blue Jackets earned a 4-1 victory over Detroit on March 11, but the momentum has shifted in the Red Wings’ favor since then. Columbus has gone 2-3-1 and have ran into problems offensively while Detroit is 4-1-1 with points in its last four contests.

Detroit’s recent success has been due in large part to forward Gustav Nyquist, who had six goals and seven points in four games last week en route to being named the NHL’s first star. The Red Wings have been forced to rely on young and largely inexperienced players like Nyquist because they’ve been devastated by injuries this season, as evidenced by the fact that 22-year-old forward Mitch Callahan would be the eighth rookie to make his NHL debut for Detroit if he plays tonight.

The Blue Jackets are a healthy team by comparison, but they’ve gotten this far by leaning on goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. He’s not going to become the first goalie since Martin Brodeur to win the Vezina Trophy in back-to-back seasons, but Bobrovsky has still been strong while making 18 straight starts. They won’t be able to lean on him like that much longer as Columbus is set to play in a brutal 10 games over 16 days starting on March 28.

That grueling stretch is another reason why the Blue Jackets need to get every point they can right now before the fatigue starts to become a potentially crippling factor. Not that either team needs to look further than the current standings to get pumped for this one.

  1. hockey412 - Mar 25, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    Clueless who to root for in this. I love Columbus’ playing style and I’m pulling for them to get in, but it’s hard to root against what Babcock is trying to pull off. And it’s also hard to root against yet ANOTHER late draft pick stepping up big for Detroit in Nyquist…hopefully they pay their scouts very well.

    Maybe I’ll just watch it and shut up. Well written piece, by the way -

    • 7mantel - Mar 25, 2014 at 9:26 AM

      Come on 412 get off the fence and pick a team !

  2. xtrememachine1 - Mar 25, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    I sure am glad they didn’t trade Nyquist who was rumored to be dealt to Columbus for Nash or to Calgary for Iginla. This guy is the next Datsyuk or Zetterberg for this franchise. I have a feeling Tatar will be another.

  3. polegojim - Mar 25, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    Young strength and grit is winning, letting skill and experience get healthy.

    Keep up the good work men, just get in.

    Go Red Wings!!!

  4. cofran2004 - Mar 25, 2014 at 10:07 AM

    That the red wings are doing this with half the team being AHL call-ups, seemingly, is amazing. I kind of hope them make it, because they’re going to be a tough out for the 1 or 2 seed, and i despise both pittsburgh and boston.

  5. valoisvipers - Mar 25, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    Detroit is the model franchise of the NHL.They are one big happy family, from the Pizza King down to the janitor`s spouse.Nothing but class!

  6. shoobiedoobin - Mar 25, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    The Jackets should pray to get the same refs that Minnesota/Detroit had in their home and home. They let the Wild get away with homicide while Detroit literally scored legit goals and had them disallowed for no reason. Typical NHL garbage officiating. I now expect it more than I don’t when it’s Detroit playing.

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