Because Ryan Johansen has been an integral part of the Nashville Predators this last year, it’s sometimes hard to remember that last December he was languishing in the doghouse of John Tortorella and was the general scapegoat of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Today, he returns to Nationwide Arena dressed in gold.
The Blue Jackets have shrugged off a run of mediocre play and ride a two-game winning streak into tonight’s match. Seth Jones has been phenomenal during the current stretch, highlighted by a terrific pass to Brandon Dubinsky for an overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.
Meanwhile, the Predators are still in the process of getting their legs back underneath them after their five-day break from action. A 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild certainly has not convinced anyone in the league that the Predators are ready to go after their pause from action. A win over one of the best teams in the East, or rather the entire NHL, would do wonders for both the confidence of this Predators group and, more importantly, their playoff position.
This will also be my third Predators game since I moved from Nashville at age six in 1998 (I know, it’s a travesty, and I have yet to return to Nashville for a game). The Predators are 1-0-1 in my two games and I’d like to get over .500. Make it happen boys.
The Columbus Blue Jackets
After a fairly rough stretch for the Columbus Blue Jackets following their 16-game winning streak, the Blue Jackets seem to have shrugged off whatever was haunting them and are putting some nice wins together. Completing a six-game homestand against Nashville, the Blue Jackets have beaten some hot teams in the NHL this last week in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Seth Jones and Brandon Dubinsky have both been playing very well as of late. Seth has just continued his growth and is matching his vision with more consistent defensive awareness, while Dubinsky has 15 points in the last 16 games. A concern for the Blue Jackets is that, despite their strong play over the season, they’re just below the halfway mark in team corsi, with a 50.4% corsi for. Then again, John Tortorella is their coach, so corsi is actually probably the last concern they have.
That being said, if criticizing a team who’s third in the toughest division of hockey revolves around their corsi for percentage, that team is probably still an incredibly strong adversary. Even though Sam Gagner and the Columbus fourth line has cooled off, the Jackets can still roll four lines that all have scoring threats. The Predators still have to put the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky, which is no small task. Finally, Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are still improving as a pair and the long minutes each of them have been playing hasn’t seemed to faze them in the least bit.
Although the Predators faced a strong opponent in the Minnesota Wild last night, the challenge tonight is just as daunting. Here’s hoping Scott Hartnell doesn’t try and headhunt Viktor Arvidsson again in the first few minutes.
The Nashville Predators
Can the Predators recover from their poor loss yesterday?
After the five-day break, the Predators dropped a big game to the Minnesota Wild. Losing 5-2, this game was not as close as the score appeared. Yes, it was 5-2 and not as close as it appears. There have been much, much better games. They looked out of form and simply outplayed, constantly attempting stretch passes that failed time and time again.
Is discipline becoming a problem for the Predators? After yesterday and their game against the Dallas Stars last week, it is a serious question that needs to be addressed. This team is taking far too many penalties to give themselves a chance. Furthermore, although the fights against the Dallas Stars at least appeared to be premeditated, a lot of these silly penalties are occurring in the first period. The Predators have been trying all season not to put themselves in a hole that they have to dig themselves out of, yet that’s exactly the scenario that they have continued to put themselves in.
The Minnesota Wild were not forgiving last night, and neither will a complete Columbus Blue Jackets team. Juuse Saros should be starting tonight, and it would bode well for the Predators to give him some scoring support for once. Yet, can they? Shades of playoff Colin Wilson appeared last night, but the rest of the team has to turn the jets on. Kevin Fiala could be making a return to the lineup tonight and, honestly, he’ll probably be more motivated than any Predator not named Pekka Rinne or Viktor Arvidsson.
After the loss against the Minnesota Wild, the Predators are two games and five points back of the St. Louis Blues for the third playoff spot in the Central Division. The Predators are also one game under .500. It is time to win some games and earn that playoff position back.
Reasons to Watch
- Will Ryan Johansen receive a video tribute, or will the fans and front office continue their spite towards the center who saw more playoff games than any of the aforementioned parties last season?
- Really though, here’s hoping we see an angry Johansen light the nets in Nationwide Arena on fire.
- Everyone’s favorite Finnish backup goaltender should be getting the nod tonight! And no, fellow Jacket fans, I’m talking about Juuse Saros, not Joonas Korpisalo.
- Kevin Fiala was also called up yesterday but did not play against the Minnesota Wild. Here’s hoping he makes the best of an opportunity tonight.
Gameday Hockey Lingo Word of the Day
Definition: A fourth line skater. It is usually debatable whether or not this player deserves to be on the team or not..
Example: “Although Fiala may be the plug tonight, I hope he makes the best of his chance!”
Sights and Sounds
The puck drops at 5:00 p.m. CST. The Predators will be televised on FS-TN and available on the radio at 102.5 The Game.