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Predators vs Blue Jackets 2/18/21 Preview: It’s Now Or Never

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Another Elvis pun for y’all there, as is tradition.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Nashville Predators Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

Hey there folks! It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Hope you didn’t miss my voice too much (a common occurrence when consuming a written medium) because it’s Eamon here back with another game preview. Today we’re looking at tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. What are the storylines of intrigue? Who are the players to watch? Why exactly should you be watching? Learn all of this and more in the article below.

How To Watch

Tonight’s game will be televised via Fox Sports Tennessee as well as ESPN+. The radio broadcast will be available on 102.5 The Game Nashville, which you can listen to on any transistor radio (for our friends out of state, go to the station’s website or radio.com to stream the audio).

The Predators

This team stinks, man, and not even in a fun or cartoonish way. They’re boring and bad, and if that’s not a crime I don’t know what is. The Preds managed two of their six wins against the Blue Jackets this year, sweeping the opening pair of games against Columbus while playing some of the best hockey they’ve flashed this year. Hopefully they can revive any fervor or star-power left in them while facing this team.

Coming off of an absolutely brutal series against the Red Wings that produced Nashville’s worst game of the year, a number of players are looking to rebound, chief among them Dante Fabbro. The young defender has largely been a bright spot this year, but his propensity for glaring, game-altering mistakes in recent weeks has been alarming. Let’s hope he can turn it around.

In terms of notable news, it’s pertinent to talk about Mattias Ekholm. Rumors of a trade involving #14 have circulated in hushed tones across the wide-open plains of the internet, but nothing concrete has materialized yet. Our very own Shaun Smith has noted the presence of many NHL scouts from around the league at recent Preds games, including ones from Vancouver. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Ekholm moved, but given his current status (injury + newborn baby) it’ll probably be a little while before anything tangible is being aired to the public.

The Blue Jackets

This team has been in the news a lot lately. Like, a lot a lot. The Jackets opened the year with one of the biggest “scandals” in recent NHL history. Star center Pierre-Luc Dubois demanded a trade, didn’t get his wish and responded by giving one of the biggest “screw you” shifts in NHL history. John Tortorella wasn't a fan and responded by benching PLD for the entire game. Shortly afterwards, Columbus swapped Dubois for Patrik Laine and Ohio native Jack Roslovic; Torts managed to bench the offense-only Laine before Dubois played a game for the Jets.

All of the drama seems to be settling down a bit now, but the Blue Jackets are still a messy team on the ice. The defensive core has looked weak this year, Torts is on the hot seat (in theory) for his inconsistent treatment of players, and Max Domi continues to play on the wing for reasons known only to the Hockey Gods. The lone bright spot in all of this murk? Newcomer and longtime Jets underachiever Jack Roslovic, who’s been playing like his hair’s on fire ever since arriving back in his home state. Check out this move:

Sheesh. The Miami of Ohio product will look to get on the scoresheet yet again after registering ten points in his first ten games in the red, white and blue. Look for him to be a key factor in this game alongside the always-deadly Laine.

Three Big Things

  1. If the Predators lose this game, we might have reached the point of no return. A loss will officially put them in the bottom four of the league’s standings (by points percentage), a hole that’ll be almost impossible to climb out of unless this roster starts miraculously playing championship-tier hockey. Before somebody makes the annoying St. Louis Blues argument, I want to point out that the 2019 Blues had some of the league’s best underlying numbers and were simply lacking replacement-level goaltending before Jordan Binnington showed up. The Predators, on the other hand, rank 18th in CF% and 28th in xGF% at 5v5. Not ideal.
  2. Pay keen attention to who gets the start in net for Nashville. Pekka Rinne looked rough in his last outing, showing every bit of his age (I’m sorry, Pekks, the team shouldn’t be forcing you to shoulder a starter’s load at this point). A second consecutive start hints that John Hynes has lost faith in Juuse Saros, a narrative that instantly becomes one of chief focus for me.
  3. Contain Roslovic, Laine and Björkstrand and you’ll bottle up this Columbus team completely. The Jackets clearly struggle to manufacture offense outside of the power play, and even then they’re atrocious (we’re talking Preds-level bad here). Those three players drive most of the scoring; if you allow one goal to Boone Jenner and company in the first two periods, chances are you’ll be winning the game.

Gameday Jukebox

I don’t know about y’all, but it’s not as easy to get up for Preds games anymore now that the team is ... bleh. I need some music to pump me up a bit so I can actually feel engaged in the game before the Preds inevitably allow five power-play goals to Patrik Laine, so let’s crank some Ozzy Osbourne together and drown out the sadness of the sinking ship.

Let’s hope for a good game and a win. Thanks for reading, and as always, go Preds.