Predators Game Day Preview: Columbus @ Nashville

The Nashville Predators look to continue their winning ways against the cellar-dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets. The Predators are 40-26-5, with 85 points, and now just one point behind fifth place Colorado. There's no easing up on the throttle, though, as a first round matchup with Phoenix is surely more appealing than with San Jose. The Blue Jackets are 28-31-11, with 67 points, and are second-to-last in the West. They aren't to be taken lightly, though, as they boast an impressive young core and superstar Rick Nash.

After the jump, your obligatory stats and analysis!

Special Note: Remember, if you're going to tonight's game, parking is a mess downtown right now due to the Music City Center construction, and one option to keep in mind is FREE parking at Lot R next to LP Field. You can either walk across the pedestrian bridge, or catch a $3 (per person) shuttle to Bridgestone Arena from there.

Nashville coming in

The Predators are on a four game winning streak, with victories at Anaheim, Los Angeles, and against Philadelphia and Minnesota. The run is thanks in large part to the at times phenomenal play of Pekka Rinne, who has, in my opinion, left no doubt as to who the goaltender would and will be until the end of the season. Nashville scored on the power play again against the Wild, and they've moved up out of the statistical basement to having the 16th ranked power play in the league. The penalty kill is a work in progress, though, and will be tested tonight by a Columbus team that's special teams are better than their personnel would suggest.

Columbus coming in

Over at The Cannon, they're frustrated with this part of the season, and who can blame them? The Jackets have gone from playoff darlings to counting lottery balls:

I hate playing out the string. I've been a Blue Jackets fan since Day One, so I had the treat of watching the team play the spoiler role for the last 15 to 20 games of every season. Last year was the only exception. Other than the obvious fact that the team isn't making the playoffs, I hate playing out the string because you have games like last night.

Other than the two points that does nothing but increase the gap between 14th and 15th in the standings, the only other thing the Jackets could take from last night is that they lost Jan Hejda, likely for the rest of the season. They were lucky not to lose Jared Boll either, I know I'm not alone in cringing and holding my breath when his head hit the ice after his fight. The linesman and Theo Peckham's reactions said it all. He turned out to be OK, (we think) but it would have just made the night even more costly.

Who's hot

Dude scored an absolute beauty early in Thursday's game on a one-man rush.


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Colin Wilson 24 7 5 12 -3 0 1 0 3 0 41 17.1

Who's not

Playing pretty well, but still not contributing on the scoresheet, which needs to change.


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - David Legwand 71 10 26 36 0 24 0 1 3 0 130 7.7

The Guys in Goal

Like I said, there's really no question about this anymore.


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

206

Nov 03, 1982


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Pekka Rinne 48 2633 26 13 117 2.67 1238 1121 .905 5

Columbus has been alternating, so I'll update with the official word when I find it.


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Steve Mason 49 2670 17 22 141 3.17 1363 1222 .897 4

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Mathieu Garon 31 1574 11 9 73 2.78 772 699 .905 2

Projected Lineups

Nashville's, which Barry Trotz has stuck with over the last 6 games:

Forwards
Wilson - Arnott -Erat
Sullivan - Goc - Hornqvist
Tootoo - Boyd - Dumont
Ward - Legwand - Smithson
Defense
Suter - Weber
Hamhuis - Franson

Bouillon - Klein

Columbus:

Forwards
Huselius -Vermette - Nash
Umberger - Brassard -Voracek
Murray - Pahlsson - Clark
Dorsett - Blunden - Boll
Defense
Tyutin - Methot
Russell - Commodore

Paetsch - Stralman

Injury Report


Nashville Predators Injuries

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Denis Grebeshkov other-excused 03/08/2010

Columbus Blue Jackets Injuries

Probable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Rick Nash other-excused 03/19/2010

Questionable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Anton Stralman other-illness 03/19/2010

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Rostislav Klesla groin 12/01/2009

Derek MacKenzie

Jan Hejda

knee

unknown

03/10/2010

n/a


Did You Know?

  • When Colin Wilson dresses tonight, he'll have lost his eligibility for the 2011 Calder Trophy (awarded to the league's top rookie). A bittersweet occasion, as I felt Wilson could've made a real go at it next year. On the other hand, his production this season has been eye-opening.
  • Patric Hornqvist is tied for the league lead in game winning goals. Yeah, he's cool.
  • The Predators are one of three teams to win 40 games in five consecutive seasons. The others? San Jose and New Jersey. In that same time, they hold the league's 3rd best home record.
  • Nashville gives up a minuscule 1.77 goals per game at even strength. The problem? That annoying penalty kill...

Fearless Prediction

The Smashville Express has been just that over the last two weeks- rolling right through opponents (with the one exception), and at times easily. The Jackets are a team that really has nothing to play for besides pride. At this point, is pride enough to motivate them? I'm not sure, and you have to wonder if some players are looking ahead. The Predators are playing for the here and now, though, and aren't likely to let up with fifth place directly in their sights. Its likely to be a great crowd tonight, and I can't see the Predators falling flat after the way they've recently responded to various adversities. The big key to this one? Staying disciplined. Anyway, Predators 4, Blue Jackets 1.

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