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Predators Game Day Preview: Columbus vs. Nashville

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03-05_medium

Columbus Blue Jackets blog: Bethany's Hockey Rants

The bumper-to-bumper battle for Western Conference playoff positioning continues tonight in Nashville, as the 6th-place Blue Jackets visit the 8th-place Predators.

Questions to be answered: (1) Can the good times keep rolling, which has Nashville averaging 5.75 Goals/Game over their last 4? (2) Can Pekka Rinne rebound from a shaky effort against Edmonton Tuesday night? (3) Will Antoine Vermette get his visa in time to play tonight for Columbus?

Blue Jackets coming in: After enjoying a 6-0-1 run in mid-February, the BJ's have cooled off a bit, going 2-3 in their last 5. On Tuesday they beat Los Angeles at home, 5-4.

Predators coming in: Nashville is 12-5-1 since the All-Star break, a feat that has lifted them back into the middle of what is now a 7-team race for 3 open playoff spots. Vancouver's recent play has them pulling away a bit.

Blue Jackets to watch: Rick Nash plays like a bull in a china shop, and has 4 goals and 8 assists in his last 9 games. Goaltender Steve Mason is known as "the Pekka Rinne of Ohio".

Preds to watch: The line of Jerred Smithson/David Legwand/Joel Ward appears capable of playing shutdown hockey while contributing offensively as well. Between the Detroit and Edmonton games, they've scored 4 goals at even strength while not allowing any, while playing mostly against the opponent's top line. Steve Sullivan is now 3rd on the team in points-per-game (0.70) and has 6 goals and 5 assists in his last 7.

As a new feature, let's review some of the major statistical categories for these teams, along with their overall NHL rank:

Columbus Nashville
 Record 32-26-6 16th 32-28-4 17th
 Points % .547 15th .531 19th
 Goals For/Game 2.64 20th 2.52 25th
 Goals Against/Game 2.73 11th 2.72 10th
 5-on-5 GF/GA 1.15 8th 0.95 16th
 PP% 12.6 30th 14.4 27th
 PK% 81.1 16th 84.2 4th
 Shots/Game 29.2 17th 29.3 15th
 Shots Against/Game 27.5 2nd 29.2 9th
 FO % 51 10th 53.1 3rd

The Blue Jackets are a pretty good 5-on-5 squad, but special teams is their Achilles heel.

P.S.: The format of these Game Day Previews is very much a work in progress, so I'd appreciate your feedback in the comments below.