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Nashville Predators vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: Jonesing for a Win

Predators look to pick up 4th win in a row tonight.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the Nashville Predators (27-15-3) continue their road trip and take on the Columbus Blue Jackets (24-15-3) in Nationwide Arena.

The Blue Jackets, like the Predators, have been inconsistent at times this season. Nonetheless, they say to win in the NHL, one needs a world-class goaltender, defenseman, and forward. The Blue Jackets have all three in Sergei Bobrovsky, Artemi Panarin, and our old friend Seth Jones. Yesterday I had a discussion with Jackets Cannon where we revisited the Jones for Johansen trade. Part II will be released later here today, so be sure to check On The Forecheck again later today!

With John Tortorella as head coach, the Blue Jackets will bring a physicality that the Predators won’t want to deal with on the second end of this back-to-back set of games. What are they exactly up against?

The Columbus Blue Jackets

For all the frustration that fans of the Nashville Predators may feel for their team’s inconsistencies, the Blue Jackets may be the only team more inconsistent. Some nights they appear to be finally clicking, the next David Savard is passing the puck through his own slot. Additionally, they are one of the five teams with a worse power play than the Nashville Predators.

Another large problem for the Blue Jackets has been their inability to win big games. Although the Blue Jackets are 9-8-0 against current playoff teams, they haven’t beaten one since November 29th. For all the talk of him changing his attitude, this has brought about a more classical version of John Tortorella, who recently lashed out at the media in a recent interview saying “I tell you guys too much.”

Of course, Tortorella is under a lot of pressure: he has arguably the best Blue Jackets team in history, yet their window could be slammed shut next season should Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin leave the team. There is not a coach in this league under more pressure to win right now.

One player adding to the frustration this season has been Zach Werenski. Formerly a lock on the Blue Jackets’ top-pairing with Seth Jones, his play has fallen off immensely this season. Watching his play, his confidence appears to be dwindling. Instead of controlling and settling the puck, he has been making hasty neutral zone passes without targets. His poise with the puck that has brought him a lot of success is strangely absent. Werenski’s hot-potato play has brought Tortorella to demote and even bench Werenski. Although he and Jones appear to be reunited, do not be surprised if you see the pair separated.

Meanwhile, Bobrovsky will miss tonight's game due to what looks like a team-internal suspension, which nobody with the team will comment on. Relations between him and management seem strained at the moment. But hey, at least we get John Tortorella dodging questions about it.

The Nashville Predators

Defeating the Blackhawks 4-3 in overtime last night, the Predators head into tonight’s contest in the second half of a back-to-back. Nearing the end of their road trip, the legs are going to feel pretty heavy for a lot of players tonight. Furthermore, with Pekka Rinne getting the start in Chicago, expect the Predators to put Juuse Saros in the starter’s crease tonight.

All that being said, the Predators’ all-time record against the Blue Jackets is something of a statistic anomaly to behold. Against the Blue Jackets, the Predators are an astonishing 51-19-1-6, good for a .732 points percentage. Even if one just looks at their record on the road at Nationwide Arena, the Predators are 24-14-0-1. Granted the Blue Jackets have not had a team to contend for the Stanley Cup, but those records are absolutely bonkers.

Ryan Johansen has been boo’d by the fans in each game he has played at Nationwide Arena since being traded from the Blue Jackets. Nonetheless, a lot of his old teammates still like him, notably Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno. Nonetheless, do not be surprised if he still receives a similar reaction.

Reasons to Watch

  1. Angry Johansen. We all know Joey thrives the most when he get that fire James Neal parted onto him. Playing a team that didn’t want him, expect a chip on his shoulder.
  2. Juuse Saros should be starting tonight. It’s about time Pekka Rinne got some rest, so enjoy watching the younger Finn!
  3. Look, Seth Jones may play for the Blue Jackets, but he’s still an absolute gem of a human. Also he’s a great hockey player and has really upped his handsome/60 game.

Pregame Meal

As I do before every Blue Jackets game that I attend, I will be downtown at R Bar just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Nationwide Arena! If you’re traveling to the game and haven’t heard me casually mention R Bar on every other episode of Two For Podcasting, it’s one of the best hockey bars that I’ve ever stumbled across. From old Blue Jackets memorabilia to a wall dedicated to a Maurice Richard poster, it’s everything you can ask for. I’ll be having their buffalo chicken pizza, a highly underrated piece on their menu.

Sights and Sounds

The puck drops at 6:00ct at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. You can watch the game on Fox Sports South and listen on the radio at 102.5 The Game.