After an unexpected three game sweep of their West Coast trip that surprised and delighted fans, the Blue Jackets are back in Columbus, briefly, but it doesn't get any easier.
It's almost a situation from a comic book. The heroes face a daunting challenge and win through...but when they return home for a moment of well earned respite, their deadliest foe is already there, waiting for them.
Even worse, it's not like the team can give themselves a mental girding of "Win this, then a little break." After tonight, they'll get a chance to sleep in their own beds, but then it's right back onto Blue Jackets Airlines for a flight up to Long Island tomorrow to get ready for Wednesday's game, then back into town to play Detroit on Friday, then flying up to Detroit afterwards to take on the Wings again Sunday in Motown. It's probably the roughest week on the Jackets' schedule, especially since three of the matches are divisional games.
Because I respect the Nashville Predators, I hate them. I hate that they've always had more success. I hate that they seem to always find ways to win against the Jackets. I hate that they keep losing core players and never seem to suffer a step back. I hate that while Columbus fans went through the wilderness for 7 years, David Poille and Barry Trotz were building a team on hard work and consistency.
The biggest thing I hate? Their fans are incredibly nice.
I mean, yes, you get a few jerks here and there. That's human nature. But you don't get the caricature hordes of subhuman trolls that follow the Wings, or the furiously boozed up train of shame and yinzing that follow the Pens like a swarm of black, gold, and power blue locusts. You don't get the fans that boo Santa Claus. You get the folks who are polite, friendly, and equally likely to ask if you'd like to join their tailgate before the game as anything else. Every time I've talked to CBJ fans about their favorite cities to visit on a road trip, Nashville always comes up. Always. The experience there is always top notch and even in victory, generally a friendly, polite, "good game" sort of thing.
It sucks to have a team that you never want to see in the building, coupled with fans who are an example for all of us.
|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
The early news on this game is interesting...in the Chinese sense of the term. Rick Nash missed the morning skate due to his nagging groin injury. Keep in mind that Nasher -did- play on Saturday (quite memorably), and that was on a day where he nearly decided not to play due to the same issue. Nash did take part in post-practice interviews, which is a good sign for his participation tonight.
Steve Mason was the first goalie off the ice, usually a sign that he'll be the starter this evening, and Kris Russell is the odd man out again tonight, meaning that Anton Stralman and Mike Commodore are both going to be in. HC Scott Arniel wants Russ to work on his game and come back able to contribute to the team's offense, an area where he's struggled after missing most of training camp and the early season.
For the Preds, Ryan Suter is out with a lower body injury, but it probably feels a little less painful today, as he and his wife welcomed their first child, Brook William Suter, into the world last night. Mazeltov - we hope the entire family is happy and healthy today.
Nashville will also be without David Legwand, Jamie Lundmark, and Matthew Lombardi.
Pekka Rinne is expected to start tonight in goal - he's 5-2 against the Jackets, with a 2.67 GAA, .903 save percentage, and one shutout. On the other hand, Rinne is 4-4 on the road with 2.75 GAA so far this season, so who knows?
Keys To The Game:
- Watch Your Backs - Nashville, as a team, has always gotten great offensive production from their blue line. While the powerful shot of Shea Weber gets headlines (and shreds nets), they're also getting some impressive production from Cody Franson, Kevin Kline, and Francis Bouillon, even as the rest of their offense sputters.
- No Home Cooking - The Jackets need to treat this like one more stop on the road trip. They're 5-5 at home, and 7-1 on the road. Use the same mindset of short shifts, emphasizing clean, simple defensive play, and aggressive attacks.
- Watch For Counterattacks - The Preds are actually 4-1-2 when trailing in the first period. They're a team that often gives up the first goal, then responds with a 2-3 goal flurry of their own. If the Jackets can continue their streak of getting the first goal, they need to put the pedal down and keep the Preds from mustering a response.
Blue Jackets Information:
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Nikita Filatov|
|Andrew Murray||Samuel Pahlsson||Chris Clark|
|Kyle Wilson||Derek MacKenzie||Jared Boll|
|Rostislav Klesla||Marc Methot|
|Jan Hejda||Anton Stralman|
|Mike Commodore||Fedor Tyutin|
|Patric Hornqvist||Cal O'Reilly||Steve Sullivan|
|J.P. Dumont||Marcel Goc||Martin Erat|
|Jordin Tootoo||Jared Smithson||Joel Ward|
|Sergei Kostitsyn||Colin Wilson||Nick Spaling|
|Shea Weber||Fracis Bouillon|
|Alexander Sulzer||Kevin Kline|
|Shane O'Brien||Cody Franson|
Tidbit: Here's a dude cooking his turkey...with Thermite.