Now that All-Star weekend has arrived, it’s 48 games down and 34 to go for the Columbus Blue Jackets. After some research and reflection, we each selected three remaining games of utter importance for the club on the schedule. Starting with:
3. Saturday, February 25 vs. New York Islanders
“SKIP THE 9-TO-5 NONSENSE, IT’S A WEEKEND AFFAIR”
Every team gets a five-day break this season, and the Jackets’ break falls in late February. This matchup with the Islanders is their first game after the week (Monday through Friday) off, symbolically representing the beginning of their push to the playoffs with just 24 games between then and the end of the season. In an attempt to get the late-season push off to a good start, this game at Nationwide Arena will be a telling sign of whether the club is ready for the final stretch or not. With a well-rested bunch, there will be no excuses for a poor showing against the Islanders on the last Saturday of February.
2. Friday, February 2 @ Pittsburgh Penguins
“SHOWDOWN IN THE STEEL CITY”
This one is less than a week away. The Blue Jackets limped into the All Star break, so too did the Penguins, who went 4-5-0 in their last nine games. This matchup will be the second game after the break for each squad as both are fighting for position near the top of the Metropolitan Division. On the road against their rivals, this game will be a good measuring stick to see what fans can expect to see from the second-half Jackets. Don’t forget: this is the second of four meetings between the two teams, with the first one being the 7-1 CBJ victory in Columbus.
1. Sunday, April 2 vs. Washington Capitals
“LAST MONTH FOR PLAYOFF REGISTRATION BEGINS NOW”
One of the final games of the regular season, this matchup against the Capitals is likely to play a big role in seeding for the playoffs. This one really doesn’t need much more explanation than that. Playoff implications, second-to-last game at Nationwide Arena, division rivals, Ovechkin, Bobrovsky. Enough said.
3. Sunday, February 19 vs. Nashville Predators
“IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED”
The Columbus Blue Jackets headed into the All-Star break with the bitter taste of defeat after a 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators. They’ll look to avenge the loss at Nationwide Arena and incidentally look to keep their Sunday swag (4-0-0 on Sundays to date) intact. Expect another competitive game that comes down to the final seconds.
2. Thursday, February 9 vs. Vancouver Canucks
“THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME”
This game represents the first of a seven-game home stand for the CBJ. It’s crucial for them to build momentum early on in this stretch of games and get off the ground and running in their home building.
1. Friday, March 31 @ Chicago Blackhawks
“OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS IN CHI-TOWN”
Remember when the Blue Jackets started the season 0-2-0? It was a Friday-night matchup against the Blackhawks in NWA that began to turn the tide for Columbus. A season-sweep of the Hawks would be a huge feat and possibly a catalyst for hot finish to the regular season.