The Nashville Predators have been one of the hottest teams coming down the stretch. They have finally figured things out and have put it together to cement themselves as a threat in the playoffs.
The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, have been trending the opposite way. In what has been a season of disappointments for this team, they look to build momentum going into next year.
This game also marks the first time both Ryan Johansen and Seth Jones face off against their former teams. For Jones, this will be a homecoming.
The Columbus Blue Jackets
When the trade for Joey went down, I was both thrilled and bummed out because we had to lose Seth Jones in the process. He is one the best young defensemen in the league and is on the cusp of taking his game to the next level in this league.
There is no doubt that Jones has benefited from being traded to the Blue Jackets. Obviously it hurts when you go from a playoff team to a team that is looking to build towards next season, but from the looks of it it seems he has embraced the challenge. Jones have definitely seen more of the ice since being in Columbus. He was quickly placed in the top four defensive pairings and has been playing there consistently. With Nashville, he had to compete with Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm for playing time. His numbers have benefited from this change as well. In 40 games with Nashville, Jones posted a stat line of 1 goal, 10 assists, and 11 points. In just 33 games with Columbus, he has posted 2 goals, 15 assists, and 17 points.
There is no doubt that Jones has been able to spread his wings on the offensive side of things in Columbus. Let's not forget that he is also talented on the defensive side of things too.
I, for one, am looking forward to his homecoming. I expect him to have a big game tonight. Is it too soon to ask for a tribute video? I mean we could just have this picture below on the jumbotron for his introduction and I would be happy.
The Nashville Predators
On the flip side of things, Ryan Johansen has had a resurgence in Nashville. From everything that I have heard from him, Joey is looking to build a contender for the long haul here in Smashville, and that gets me excited. Just read some of these quotes from his interview with ESPN.
This is what he had to say when he was asked how he felt about coming to Nashville:
I get that question quite a bit just from family and friends wanting to know how you feel about the whole situation and whatnot, and the first thing that kind of came to my mind was that I couldn't wait to get to work. Couldn't wait to get on the ice with the guys and just start playing because they've been a pretty steady playoff team with a good defense that needed to take that extra step to be successful in the playoffs. I felt like I could be that piece that they were looking for. For the organization to hopefully be a winning franchise. I couldn't wait to get on the ice and get to work and find out what we could be capable of as a hockey club. As soon as I found out the news I packed up, got on the plane and I was just excited to get on the ice and start playing with these guys.
Johansen has been excited since day 1 of being apart of the Predators organization, and you can still see that excitement when he hits the ice.
Just like his counterpart in Jones, Johansen's numbers have also been trending upwards better since switching teams. In 38 games with the Blue Jackets, he posted 6 goals, 20 assists, and 26 points. In 34 games with Nashville, he has posted 7 goals, 18 assist, and 25 points. He is definitely on a better pace than what he was on with the Blue Jackets.
Reasons To Watch
- As I mentioned before, this is Seth Jones' first game back in Nashville, and I expect him to have a good one. But obviously not good enough to the point where they win.
- James Neal has an opportunity to hit 30 goals tonight. If he does, this will be only the second time the Preds have had two 30-goal scorers on their team in one season (The first being Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan).
- The other 30-goal scorer I am talking about is obviously Filip Forsberg. Tonight, he has a chance to tie/break Jason Arnott's single season franchise record for goals scored in a season. If it's not tonight, I expect him to break it very soon.
Drink Of Choice For Game Time
Since it's a Saturday night, I am going to be enjoying an old fashioned this evening while I watch this one.
Sights And Sounds
The usual here. FS-TN and 102.5 The Game have your coverage. Puck drops at 7:00 pm CST.