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Game Preview #33 - Goalie Showdown

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The Jackets' home-stand continues, and they welcome arguably the best goaltender in the league this season.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville Predators at Columbus Blue Jackets

December 22, 2014 - 7:00 PM EST
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: On The Forecheck

In some ways, you almost hate to see the break coming. Since the calendar flipped to December, the Jackets have only lost once, and they have earned points in all nine of their games. After tonight's game, the holiday break comes, and with it some needed time off. Unless, of course, you're a believer in the notion that you want to keep playing in a routine when your team is winning like this.

At any rate, Nashville comes calling tonight. In some ways, the last time these two teams played marked a bit of a turning point for Columbus: it was the last time they lost in regulation, but it was probably the best game they'd played in quite a long time... certainly of that 0-5-1 skid to finish November. "I thought we played them so hard [last time]," said Nick Foligno. "Unlucky bounce late in the game and they get a win. Otherwise it maybe goes into overtime and it's a different story. We know we can play with them. I know they're playing well right now and doing a lot of great things, so it's going to be a test for us."

Tonight should feature an all-world goaltending matchup between two of the best in the business who are both playing at or near their apex. Sergei Bobrovsky has been almost untouchable in December, posting a .940 save percentage during this nine-game points streak. That includes stopping 300 of 319 shots, or 35.4 shots per game. Holy balls.

Rinne has been stellar all season long. If I had a vote for the Vezina and it was voted on in December, he would get my vote going away. He has a .933 save percentage... for the entire season. He's 21-6-1 and has a minuscule 1.87 goals-against average. In other words, he's been almost as good as Bob has been of late, but he's been doing it for three freaking months straight.

The few players I talked to after morning skate noted Rinne's rebound control as an area to try to attack, but a goalie that size who is athletic presents many challenges. "I think what makes [Rinne] so difficult to play against is, he's not only big but he's athletic," said Foligno. "He's a guy that can get around the net really well, and he's someone who also plays the puck really well, too. He's got all the facets of being a great goaltender."

"[We have to get] traffic on this guy, he spits out a lot of rebounds," said Matt Calvert. "He's a great goalie, though, so we're going to have to get the second, third, fourth efforts on him."

So, if you remember that 0-0 shootout game in Detroit last week, well, don't be surprised if something similar happens tonight.

As usual, no lineup changes for the Jackets.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(14-15-3, 31 Points; 6th division, 13th conference)

Nick Foligno Ryan Johansen Jeremy Morin
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Corey Tropp Alexander Wennberg Jack Skille
Adam Cracknell Michael Chaput Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin Dalton Prout
Jack Johnson David Savard
Kevin Connauton James Wisniewski
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Nashville Predators
(21-8-2, 44 Points; 3rd Division, 4th Conference)

Filip Forsberg Mike Ribeiro Craig Smith
Colin Wilson Mike Fisher Matt Cullen
Derek Roy Calle Jarnkrok Taylor Beck
Eric Nystrom Olli Jokinen Gabriel Bourque
Roman Josi Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm Ryan Ellis
Victor Bartley Seth Jones
Pekka Rinne
Carter Hutton

Season Series

11/29/14 - Columbus 1 at Nashville 2
12/22/14 - Nashville at Columbus

Head to Head Stats

Nashville Columbus
2.68 (18) GPG 2.34 (24)
2.03 (2) GAPG 3.16 (26)
12.0% (29) PP% 23.1% (5)
79.5% (18) PK% 79.1% (22)
Filip Forsberg, 13 G leader Nick Foligno, 16
Filip Forsberg / Mike Ribeiro, 18 A leader Ryan Johansen, 20
Filip Forsberg, 31 Pts leader Nick Foligno, 30
Ryan Ellis, 27 PIM leader Jared Boll, 49
9-6-1 Road/Home 7-8-2
7-3-0 Last 10 8-1-1
12/20 @ Minnesota, W 6-5 (OT) Last Game 12/20 vs. Chicago, W 3-2 (SO)