The Columbus Blue Jackets and Atlanta Thrashers share many similarities, most notable of which is the fact that they've both made the playoffs exactly once in their history, and both instances have resulted in a sweep. This season they both have new coaches who seem to have found a system that worked.
Rick Arniel, the newest coach of the Blue Jackets, have pulled them out of their expected start in the bottom of the Central Division and have them sitting in playoff contention smack between the Blues and Predators. Fourth place in the Central might not sound impressive until you look at the fact that the Central has the highest point total of all the divisions in hockey, and is commonly regarded as the toughest one. Their last game was a 3-0 blanking of the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, courtesy of Mathieu Garon.
Garon will be tonight's starter for the Jackets, while Ondrej Pavelec will be hoping for a better outcome than Saturday in his next start in goal. Garon has had the Thrashers' number over the seasons, and so far this year he's 3-0 with a .957 SV% and a 1.15 GAA. Compare that to the Jackets' presumed starter, Steve Mason, who is still slipping at a 4-4 record with a .894 SV% and a 3.30 GAA.
The Thrashers will have no time to recover from their win against the Florida Panthers last night. Despite allowing 55 shots on goal, the Thrashers managed to come from behind and win, 4-3. Coach Craig Ramsay was still not thrilled with how the team played:
"Another comeback, but that was just awful," Ramsay said. "Mason was magnificent. Our goaltender gave us a chance. You need your goaltender to steal a game every once in awhile. That was an incredible performance by our goaltender, and we found a way to win, but we can’t keep falling behind. We can’t play as poorly as we did."
The Thrashers haven't been the sharpest at home, but won't have to work hard to limit Columbus' goals - the Blue Jackets have the league's second worse goals scored per game at 2.36. However, the Thrashers absolutely need to make their 3.5 goals allowed a game statistic go down.