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Nashville Predators vs Columbus Blue Jackets Preview: Can Hal Gill Save the PK?

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Can the return of Hal Gill shore up what has been a troubling weak spot for the Predators?

USA TODAY Sports

The Stats

Columbus Blue Jackets Nashville Predators
Record 13-12-6 18th 12-13-6 21st
GF/Game 2.23 30th 2.36 27th
GA/Game 2.48 9th 2.55 11th
5-on-5 SF/60 24.6 29th 23.9 30th
5-on-5 SA/60 30.2 22nd 25.8 6th
Fenwick Close 44.76 28th 46.62 23rd
5-on-5 Save % .919 14th .920 13th
5-on-4 GF/60 4.4 28th 6.4 13th
# of PP's/Gm 3.84 6th 3.16 24th
4-on-5 GA/60 3.7 3rd 7.9 27th
# of PK's/Gm 3.19 5th 3.26 8th

In 5-on-5, these teams have been fairly similar; outshot regularly and supported by decent, but not spectacular goaltending (sorry, Peks). The challenge for Nashville is on special teams, where Columbus tends to get more power plays than their opponents, and their penalty killing has been excellent.

The Blue Jackets have won each of the two previous meetings between these teams this season, a 3-2 shootout win at Bridgestone Arena on January 19 and a 4-3 victory at Columbus on Tuesday.

Columbus Blue Jackets

These are heady days in Ohio, as the Blue Jackets have come on strong lately, having gone 8-0-4 in their last 12 games to lift them into 9th place in the Western Conference. That included a 5-1 stomping of the Calgary Flames last night, which is giving their fans reason to maybe, possibly, start thinking that bigger things are possible:

This is where things are going to get nasty - the Jackets will face Nashville tonight, then fly to Western Canada for their final road games against the Oilers, Canucks, and Flames this season. The team struggled early this season on the road, but the way they've gelled in the last month means this is a very different club. A win against Nashville would put them firmly into playoff contention, and if they can find success on the road...well, who knows?

--- The Cannon

Leading the way is a veteran who seems to be playing out the string on his career with his head held high. Vinny Prospal could have gone somewhere with Stanley Cup aspirations and served as a role player, but instead he's helping to set the foundation of a rebuilding effort with the Blue Jackets:


Vinny Prospal

#22 / Left Wing / Columbus Blue Jackets

6-2

198

Feb 17, 1975



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2012 - Vinny Prospal 31 9 9 18 0 20 4 0 2 58 15.5

In the two games played against the Predators this season, Prospal has four assists to lead all Columbus scorers.

Nashville Predators

The big news tonight is that Hal Gill is expected to return to the lineup (Patric Hornqvist & Scott Hannan are still out, per Josh Cooper), hopefully to shore up a penalty kill which has been awful (24/37, 64.8%) in his absence. As the Predators struggle to find some sort of identity in their desperate drive for a playoff spot, a tenacious PK would make for a nice start.


Hal Gill

#75 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators

6-7

244

Apr 06, 1975



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2012 - Hal Gill 15 0 0 0 -1 8 0 0 0 4 0.0

Can a bit of defensive stability help hold off the Blue Jackets? If the Predators can pull off a regulation win tonight, it will at least lift them past the Blue Jackets in the chase for the playoffs.