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Jackets-Jets preview: Similar records, different directions

Blue Jackets Rangers Hockey

Columbus Blue Jackets’ Ryan Johansen (19) celebrates with teammates Jack Johnson, second left, R.J. Umberger (18) and Fedor Tyutin, behind Umberger, after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, in New York. The Blue Jackets won 4-2. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)


So obviously hockey fans can barely wait for tonight’s Jets-Jackets game in Columbus.



OK, but there are actually some compelling storylines heading into this one. Bear with us here.

For the Jackets (14-15-4), it’s an opportunity to build on their recent run of good play. Columbus is 4-1-1 in December, its only regulation loss coming in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins have been practically unbeatable this season. On Saturday, the Jackets lost 4-3 in overtime to St. Louis, but they played a very good Blues side close all game.

“I saw a lot of good things there, things we can continue to build on,” Jackets coach Todd Richards said, per the Columbus Dispatch. “We made some mistakes that we can clean up, and we had chances to put that game away - a few chances, really - and we weren’t able to do it. But I can’t fault our effort. We had a lot of guys really going hard.”

Despite an almost identical record, the Jets (14-15-5) are a very different story. They lost their third straight Saturday, falling 6-4 at home to Dallas in a game that left forward Blake Wheeler wondering what else he can say.

“We’ve been blowing smoke for three years, everyone, myself, everyone that’s stood in front of a microphone in the last three years, we’ve said the same [blank],” Wheeler said. “What do you want me to say? That’s about it. I don’t know what else to say.”

The team’s ongoing issues have the Winnipeg Free Press running down the options for general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, from making a trade to firing head coach Claude Noel.

The Jets also play tomorrow in Buffalo. Now imagine they lose tonight and then can’t even beat the Sabres. All those calls for change may actually get answered.