It’s not usual to get a playoff-type atmosphere for a hockey game in the beginning of December, but that’s exactly what we should expect as the New York Islanders return to the Nassau Coliseum to host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight. The puck drop is scheduled for shortly after 7:00 PM ET.
The CBJ went 9-3-2 in the month of November and will play their first game of December this evening. On Thursday night, the Jackets won their third consecutive game at home for the first time this season. Tonight’s matchup will have Columbus playing the role of road warriors with the Islanders reopening the new-and-improved Nassau Coliseum.
With the new month beginning, it’s a good time to evaluate the Jackets. Columbus currently ranks sixth in the National Hockey League, averaging 3.52 goals per game. Defensively, the club hasn’t been as consistent, giving up 3.16 GPG, good for 21st in the league. A month ago the team’s power-play percentage was the worst in the entire NHL. While the power play isn’t exactly a strength for the team, they’ve moved up to a somewhat-respectable 22nd ranking, converting on 17.1% of their chances.
The biggest improvement for Columbus came in its home building. After going 3-4-0 at home in the month of October, the Jackets had a 4-0-1 record when they played at Nationwide Arena in the month of November.
That stat won’t be too helpful or useful tonight, as Columbus will have to likely rely heavily on their dynamite top line of Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson. Atkinson has scored goals in eight of his last nine games, proving to be a lethal offensive threat. Dubois has brought a physicality to the top line, and also has amped up his scoring with 12 goals and 12 assists through 25 games. Meanwhile, Panarin has kept the ball rolling, consistently being a magician with the puck on his stick, with 20 assists this season.
Now it’s on to December. Will the Jackets play ice cold and fail to secure two points in a tough road test, or will they fill their fans with some warm holiday joy? We’ll just have to wait until the puck drops.