Columbus takes aim at a sixth straight triumph this evening when it battles the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets have been one of the more surprising teams this year as they are 14-6-0 on the season -- the club's best record through 20 games in team history -- and tied with the Red Wings for the top spot in the Western Conference with 28 points. They posted their first five-game winning streak since Dec. 2-12, 2006 on Wednesday with a 4-3 overtime decision over the Islanders, who dropped their 14th straight game.
Though Rick Nash had a nine-game point streak end and failed to score a goal for the first time in seven games, Umberger now notched an assist in a club- record seven straight games, adding two goals over that run.
"I don't think we were as crisp and clean as we've been in our recent games but we won against a very desperate team over there that certainly played very hard and threw everything they had at us," said Columbus head coach Scott Arniel. "It took a little longer than 60 minutes but we found a way in the end to get the result that we wanted."
Columbus, which last won six consecutive games from March 24-April, 2006, played without Nikita Filatov after he was a healthy scratch for reportedly oversleeping and missing a team function. His status for this game is unknown.
Mathieu Garon made 21 saves and has been in net for two games of this win streak. He is 6-1-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average and three shutouts on the season, but just 3-5-0 with a 3.12 GAA versus the Red Wings.
Steve Mason, meanwhile, notched a 22-save shutout in his most recent start on Monday and is 8-5-0 with a 2.94 GAA on the year. The former Calder Memorial Trophy winner is 4-5-1 with a 2.72 GAA in his career versus the Red Wings.
Detroit could get a look at both goaltenders as the two clubs are slated to cap a home-and-home set on Sunday in Motown as they look to break their deadlock atop the Central Division.
The Red Wings were 5-0-1 last year versus the Blue Jackets, winning the last three meetings. Detroit has taken 11 of the last 15 in this series as well and went 2-0-1 in Ohio last season. That includes a 9-1 triumph at Nationwide Arena on Nov. 11, 2009.
After a 5-0-1 homestand, the Red Wings kicked off a stretch of five road contests in six games on Wednesday with a 5-1 loss in Atlanta. Todd Bertuzzi had the lone goal and Jimmy Howard made 26 saves before being lifted after the second period. Joey MacDonald made seven saves in the third frame on eight shots.
"The other team was more patient than us," Detroit head coach Mike Babcock said. "They were better than us. That's it. I hope we don't just forget this game. The reality is you need reminders in life. We all get it and we got a reminder tonight of how hard the league is and how much structure you have to play with and how good you have to be to be successful."
Howard has never lost in regulation to the Blue Jackets, going 5-0-1 with a 1.36 GAA in seven games, including six starts.