Nashville Predators @ Columbus Blue Jackets Preview: Old Friends

The Preds and Jackets square off for old times sake.

It's been approximately a million years since the Nashville Predators last played hockey. They'll be in that awkward state between being rested and being Tin Man rusty. Hope they brought the oil can.

While they've been sitting around, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been at work. They're coming off a loss last night, and had to fly back from Canada before tonight's action. Nashville has a prime chance to pounce on a tired opponent before heading into their own back-to-back.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Sometimes the Hockey Gods just decide to screw teams over.

It's been two seasons since the Blue Jackets made the playoffs and won a game for the first time in franchise history. Last year things were supposed to improve, but injuries and bad luck got in the way. When they were finally healthy toward the end of the year, they finished winning 16 of their last 20 games, including a stretch of nine in a row.

That run and the addition of Brandon Saad led them to be a sexy choice for the Metro division winner, and their performance in the preseason looked like that was a smart pick. Again, the Hockey Gods had other ideas.

Columbus started the year like they didn't know their controller was unplugged, and fell eight-straight times. To put that in perspective, it was more than two full calendar weeks before the Jackets picked up their first point. By that time, the Predators had already collected 13. Yeesh.

Despite a three-game win streak (that Ottawa put to an end last night) they are still dead last in the Metro division, and seven points out of a playoff spot in the East. With Thanksgiving fast approaching, that isn't good news. It doesn't help that they are statistically average pretty much across the board, allow tons of goals, and are in a deep division. It may be a bit premature to say they're completely finished, but their playoff chances are bleak.

Sergei Bobrovsky is still recovering from his horrendous start, and currently sports an. .894 Sv%, which is completely uncharacteristic of him. He should definitely be starting tonight, as backup Curtis McElhinney was in net for the loss against the Senators.

The Nashville Predators

Naturally, the gap between this game and the previous game has allowed for plenty of conversation about the team. Several questions that were on the mind by the end of the Ducks game get stuck there since there isn't any hockey to suppress them. We answered a few, but there are still several more and the answer to them is "YES" across the board.

  • Has Calle Jarnkrok been awesome recently?
  • Should Colton Sissons stay in the lineup over Eric Nystrom, whenever the latter gets healthy?
  • Is it time to think about booting Mike Fisher off the first line?
  • Can we wait a few more games before we start to really worry about Filip Forsberg's lack of scoring?
  • I'm being patient right now, but if he hasn't scored by the end of this road trip can I panic?
  • Would it be smarter to play Carter Hutton tonight to save the intense division game in Minnesota for Pekka Rinne?

To expand on the last question, take a look at the Central division standings as of the end of action last night:

Dallas is running away with it. Even if the Preds win all three of their games in hand, they still don't catch up to them yet. And it's looking like Dallas will hold the ROW tie breaker, especially if Nashville continues to be dog turds in overtime.

Seeing how packed in the teams are in the middle, it makes it almost imperative to get a win against a substandard Eastern Conference opponent on the second night of a back-to-back. Thanks to the Boston Bruins, the Wild failed to pick up any points last night, so a win there as well would give the Predators some breathing room. (That's to worry about tomorrow, though.)

Admittedly, scoreboard watching in freaking November is a little ridiculous. But that's the nature of the division, and as the season gets later we'll start to see a lot of three-point games. So, get it done tonight and move on to tomorrow.

The Important Stuff

Remember the early start tonight. FS-TN and 102.5 The Game have your calls at 6 p.m. Central time.