After suffering their first back to back losses of the season (the final team in the NHL to do so), the Jackets have a chance to get back onto their feet with a game against another Central Division opponent.
The Predators come in having lost three of their last four games since being shut out by Steve Mason last week, but did produce an impressive 3-0 shutout of the Phoenix Coyotes last night before loading up their gear and flying into town.
The Preds are also struggling in the second half of back to back games this year, by the way.
Pekka Rinne got the shutout last night against the 'Yotes, and is expected to start again tonight. The big Finn is having another good year for the Preds, but the team's lack of goal support has been a struggle for him, especially on the road - the Preds are 27th in the NHL right now with a 2.13 goals per game average, while Rinne is 4-6 on the road (compared to 3-1-4 at home), with a 2.90 GAA and a .898 save percentage.
For the Jackets, Steve Mason is expected to get the start, and has been playing extremely well of late - after his rough start he's improved to a 2.77 GAA and .907 save percentage at home, and has a 1.68 GAA and .955 save percentage in his last 3 starts.
The team's lineup has also been shaken up by the return of Ethan Moreau from a broken hand. The veteran winger will go in on the third line with Sammy Pahlsson and Chris Clark, while Derek Dorsett moves to the second line, and Kyle Wilson, Derek MacKenzie, and Jared Boll will be reunited on the fourth line. Andrew Murray and Nikita Filatov are both expected to be scratches tonight barring a change after today's pre-game skate.
|Game Time: 7:00pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: 97.1FM WFAN
|Predators vs Blue Jackets coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: On the Forecheck
Keys To The Game:
- Pressure Tactics - The Predators are in a position where they really have no margin for error. Their scoring struggles have forced Rinne or Anders Lindback to have to play "No mistakes" hockey. That's hard on any player, but particularly the goaltender. Getting an early goal (or two) would be a great way to undermine that confidence further.
- PK - In the Preds' last three games, including their win last night, four of the six goals they scored came on the man advantage, and one went into an empty net. Columbus needs to continue to stay out of the box (which, I grant, they've improved on), and work hard to deny Nashville scoring opportunities when they have the man advantage.
- Get On The Down Low - When Nashville is scoring, they're getting the puck through from the bottom of the circles and sharp angle shots or redirections from the side of the net. When they're being scored on, it's usually from the top of the crease or shooters in the slot. Given that Nashville's been struggling with winning puck battles, I'd actually suggest taking a similar game plan to the one used for facing St. Louis - win puck battles and get traffic into the slot against Rinne for best effect.
- It Starts At The Dot - The Jackets had been one of the best faceoff teams in the West before the back to back series with Detroit, where they lost something like 2/3 of their draws. The team needs to re-focus and get back to winning faceoffs so they can maintain puck control tonight.
Blue Jackets Information:
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Derek Dorsett|
|Ethan Moreau||Samuel Pahlsson||Chris Clark|
|Kyle Wilson||Derek MacKenzie||Jared Boll|
|Jan Hejda||Anton Stralman|
|Rostislav Klesla||Fedor Tyutin|
|Mike Commodore||Kris Russell|
|Sergei Kostitsyn||Marcel Goc||Martin Erat|
|Steve Sullivan||Cal O'Reilly||Colin Wilson|
|J.P. Dumont||Nick Spaling||Patrick Hornqvist|
|Joel Ward||Jerred Smithson||Jordin Tootoo|
|Ryan Suter||Shea Weber|
|Francis Bouillon||Kevin Kline|
|Shane O'Brien||Cody Franson|
Tidbit: Some good news on the injury front - Kristian Huselius spent just under a half hour skating yesterday before the main team practice. If he continues to work on recovering his leg strength, and doesn't feel any setbacks from yesterday's workout, it could be the light at the end of the tunnel. Marc Methot did not practice yesterday, but was working out in the team's gym, so hopefully he'll also be able to return soon.
The phrase "23 skidoo" was a slang term that got popular in the 1920s. It is totally unconnected with the Bavarian Illuminati or the Discordian movement.