The Blue Jackets finish their four-game homestand before heading out on the road to head into the All Star Break. In their way tonight are the red-hot Nashville Predators, winners of eight of their last 10. Before I talk about the game, can I digress for a moment about the Preds' mascot? How in the hell does that thing get food into its mouth? Is its neck hinged? Can it pop those ridiculous teeth out? I mean, it can't really close its mouth to "chew" anything, so does it just swallow shit whole, like a python?
OK, and we're back.
At any rate, Steve Mason gets the start for Columbus tonight, his first since Scott Arniel's swan song almost two weeks ago (a 7-4 loss to Anaheim in which Mason was pulled after a God-awful first period). Todd Richards made some comments about Mason's work in practice, and him being the only guy relegate to the bench to watch during the "rebirth" post-Arniel. The veiled cursing in the background was no doubt Grant Clitsome, who looks to be relegated to the press-box AGAIN tonight for the fifth straight time. This is Richards' fifth game as interim head coach. Hmmm...
For the Preds, Ryan Suter is a no-go with an upper body injury, and without Suter in the lineup Richards has indicated he will try to catch Shea Weber at off-points to put out the top line. Not having Suter hurts Weber to a degree (those two are an all-world pairing, let's be honest), but it doesn't entirely mitigate him.
Pekka Rinne has been hot, but Columbus has oddly enough had pretty good luck against him, scoring 14 goals in the previous four games against Rinne. Normally, he wears the Jackets out. They'll have to get to him early and often tonight if they want to end the homestand with a winning record.