Blue Jackets blog: Bethany's Hockey Rants
TV: FS-TN (Comcast 28, Dish Network 445, DirecTV 644)
Radio: 104.5 "The Zone" (WGFX)
As if last Tuesday's wasn't big enough, it's safe to say that tonight represents the most important game in the history of the Columbus/Nashville rivalry, which may not have the length of traditional duos like Montreal/Boston or Rangers/Flyers, but has all the intensity and ill-will that divisional opponents can develop.
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? (4) How effective will Jason Arnott be in his return to action?
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:
All signs point to another low-scoring, tight affair...
Next, let's take a look at which players draw penalties, and which ones head to the box (data through March 31):
|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
Especially given all the injuries up front, it will be essential for the Preds to tip the special teams battle in their favor. Columbus doesn't have much of a power play to speak of, but time spent on the PK leaves less for Nashville's offensive players.
Per Tom Reed at the Columbus Dispatch, the Blue Jackets' lines looked as follows in yesterday's practice:
Extra line: Chimera-Gratton-Dorsett
And lastly, the goaltenders:
|2008 - Wade Dubielewicz||3||169||1||2||0||1||10||3.55||77||67||.870||0|
|2008 - Steve Mason||56||3352||32||18||5||6||124||2.22||1521||1397||.918||10|
|2008 - Dan Ellis||35||1965||11||19||4||5||96||2.93||963||867||.900||3|
|2008 - Pekka Rinne||47||2693||27||12||4||4||101||2.25||1293||1192||.922||7|