Nashville Predators vs Columbus Blue Jackets Preview: Was that a cannon or the Preds’ playoff chances?

Saturday night’s alright for fighting, says Sir Elton John

Saturday night is the night — and by ‘the night’ I mean: the last game the Predators will play before Monday’s trade deadline. This means it’s the last game that could potentially impact General Manager David Poile’s trade deadline decision and the last chance certain players have to make their case. No pressure, right?

The Columbus Blue Jackets are coming to town, which means Nashville’s eardrums are spared the damage caused by those “beloved” cannons they keep up there in Ohio. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? The Blue Jackets are treated to the foot-tappin’ tunes of country music icon Tim McGraw when they come to town, but when Nashville heads north they get hearing damage? I jest! Don’t come for me, CBJ. I make bad jokes. It’s my thing.

The match-up

The Predators are coming into Saturday’s game off an overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Including Saturday night’s game, the Predators have 22 games left in the regular season and Nashville is still on the outside looking in to the wild-card race. They’re out right now, but there’s still a chance.

The Blue Jackets are sitting pretty in the top wild-card spot for the Eastern Conference and are only two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers, who are holding on by their teeth to that third spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Columbus, by no means, can ‘let up on the gas’ right now, but Nashville has more to prove: still-new coach, newly healthy team, it’s now or never.

The Predators

The Human Rocket Ship is officially back. He played his first game back from injury (due to a dirty hit from the Dallas Stars’ Corey Perry, let’s not forget) Friday night in Chicago, so a back-to-back will be tough test of a tenacious d— fender. — My jokes are exceptionally bad today. Enjoy, y’all.

Ellis’s second game should bring more stability to a struggling defense and the team and fans alike are hoping his veteran presence sparks the fire the team needs.

The Predators have won five of ten games in February, with one overtime loss, with five games left, including Saturday’s.

Predators captain and team leader in points and assists Roman Josi (43A, 57P) is on a cold streak. He hasn’t recorded a single point in the last three games. Leading goal scorer Filip Forsberg (18) hasn’t recorded a point in two games and neither has Matt Duchene. Nick Bonino, who is second on the team in goals (17), sat out of Friday’s game. The team says Bonino’s absence was due to illness, attempting to quiet trade speculation surrounding the forward.

The Predators are desperate for a big, loud game from their top stars heading into the trade deadline.

The Blue Jackets

Columbus lost their top goal scorer in Oliver Bjorkstrand (21) Thursday to what the team said is a “sprained and fractured ankle.” This is just the latest in an unfortunate string of injuries for the Blue Jackets. He’s expected to miss eight to 10 weeks.

Former Predator Seth Jones, Joonas Korpisalo, Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, Dean Kukan, Ryan Murray, Alexander Wennberg, and Alexandre Texier make up the rest of Columbus’ lengthy injured reserve list. It’s commendable they’ve done this well with such horrible injury luck this season.

With Bjorkstrand out, the Blue Jackets will look to Zach Werenski (18G, 18A), Pierre-Luc Dubois (17G, 17A), and Gustav Nyquist (12G, 25A) to fill in the gaps.

Reasons to watch

With Monday’s trade deadline, everyone will be over-analyzing the lineup: who’s in and who’s out. It could be a telling sign of what’s to come.

Ellis’s impact on the defense is also something to keep an eye on. Coming off a nasty concussion, expectations should be kept reasonably low, but veteran presence and a renewed sense of energy could make a small difference.

I read the comments, I know there is a very strong ‘coast into the offseason, this isn’t our year’ sentiment out there. However, this team has too much money invested in it and too much talent on the roster to stop trying. GMDP owes it to the fans and the team to give it the ole ‘college try’ and see what they can do.

Soundtrack to your game

It’s been a largely disappointing season, so it helps to focus on one small ‘positive’ at a time. Ryan Ellis isn’t a ‘cure,’ by any means, but he’s a large piece of the team on the ice and in the locker room and he’s been missed all around.

So here’s to you in your second game back, Human Rocket Ship.

It was either this or Sir Elton’s “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” as references under the headline. He’s ‘a mood,’ I guess.

Where to watch

Puck drop: 7 p.m. CST

TV: FOX Sports Tennessee/FOX Sports Ohio

Radio: 102.5 The Game