Blue Jackets blog: Bethany's Hockey Rants
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Sixth place in the Western Conference is on the line tonight in Columbus; but 11th isn't too far away, either! Tonight is quite possibly the biggest game in the history of the Columbus/Nashville rivalry, considering the position of both teams and their need to earn points right now.
Questions to be answered: (1) As Nashville's sick ward piles up with injured players, can the young guns from Milwaukee fill key roles for a few games? (2) Will Pekka Rinne use this opportunity to outshine the NHL's other Hot Rookie Goaltender, Steve Mason? (3) Can the Preds build upon their 2-1-1 record so far against Columbus, and re-establish the dominance they've held over the Blue Jackets for the last few seasons?
Predators coming in: While the roster gets thinner, the victories continue to pile up; Nashville is riding three comeback victories in a row over San Jose, Los Angeles, and Detroit heading into tonight's game, and is 5-0-3 in their last 8 games.
Blue Jackets coming in: Columbus has made major strides in the last few weeks towards locking up a trip to their first playoff ever, going 7-2-2 in their last 11. Over the weekend, however, they did lose back-to-back games against St. Louis, the first of those games in a shootout.
Predators to watch: Steve Sullivan is heating up again, and the dynamic duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter on defense are stepping up as the forward ranks take hit after hit. It will be interesting to see what happens if Sully gets another breakaway chance against the rookie Mason...
Blue Jackets to watch: The leading contender for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) is Steve Mason, who leads the NHL with 10 shutouts. Rick Nash is the big name up front, and is chasing his second 40-goal season with 36 so far.
Here's a look at the two teams in the main statistical categories, along with overall NHL rank:
For the Preds, the key will be to create and capitalize on power play situations. The PP has been better of late, and a goal or two with the man advantage can allow the team to hunker down in 5-on-5 action. The Nashville PK should be able to shut down a chronically awful Columbus power play.
Next, let's take a look at which players draw penalties, and which ones head to the box:
|Nashville||Penalties Drawn||Columbus||Penalties Drawn|
|Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-||Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-|
|Jordin Tootoo||50||45||+5||Rick Nash||46||24||+22|
|Martin Erat||25||24||+1||Jared Boll||45||36||+9|
|Ryan Jones||24||10||+14||Derek Dorsett||40||35||+5|
|Dan Hamhuis||23||25||-2||R.J. Umberger||30||19||+11|
|Vern Fiddler||22||12||+10||Kris Russell||19||8||+11|
|Joel Ward||21||12||+9||Kristian Huselius||19||20||-1|
|Penalties Taken||Penalties Taken|
|Jordin Tootoo||50||45||+5||Mike Commodore||17||45||-28|
|Ryan Suter||17||35||-18||Jared Boll||45||36||+9|
|Shea Weber||15||35||-20||Derek Dorsett||40||35||+5|
|Greg de Vries||12||27||-15||Fedor Tyutin||13||29||-16|
|Dan Hamhuis||23||25||-2||Rick Nash||46||24||+22|
|Martin Erat||25||24||+1||Antoine Vermette||16||22||-6|
Columbus is a team of extremes; Nash is an elite offensive force who often puts defenders in desperate straits, while Mike Commodore is down near the very bottom of the Penalty Plus/Minus rankings.
From Tom Reed at the Columbus Dispatch, we have the Blue Jackets lines from this morning:
And lastly, a look at the goaltenders...
|2008 - Dan Ellis||35||1965||11||19||4||5||96||2.93||963||867||.900||3|
|2008 - Pekka Rinne||46||2634||27||11||4||4||99||2.26||1260||1161||.921||7|
|2008 - Wade Dubielewicz||3||169||1||2||0||1||10||3.55||77||67||.870||0|
|2008 - Steve Mason||55||3292||31||18||5||6||123||2.24||1499||1376||.918||10|