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Jackets head to the Music City to face the Preds

Buckle your seatbelts Jacket fans, this one should be exciting. This is a divisional clash of two teams that are on fire of late, with a goaltending battle between the two best rookie netminders from last season. Mase wasn’t originally scheduled to start, but after his strong showing in Dallas coach Hitchcock changed his mind and now we will see Mase take on Pekka Rinne and those pesky Preds.

The checking line took one step forward, and then one step back this week as it looks like Sammy Pahlsson is ready to return from injury. However, Dorse is going to miss the next few games after taking a cheapshot from Dallas’ James Neal. The top six remains the same, with Mike Blunden moving into Dorsett’s spot on the checking line. Derek MacKenzie, Raffi, and Boller make up the fourth line. MacKenzie and Raffi seem to have some chemistry together, and Boller has the ability to make space for them. This version of the fourth line could have some success tonight.

Here’s what Dirk from On the Forecheck has to say about the Preds thus far:

The Predators have finally gotten their act together over the last few weeks, as injured stars returned to the lineup and Barry Trotz found 3 defensive pairings that work well together. In the early going, there were blown coverages and miscommunication that led to some horrible defensive efforts, but things have tightened up considerably in the month of November.
The big question with Nashville, as always, is scoring depth; the top line of Steve Sullivan, Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont is a good one, and the defensemen chip in quite often, but what the Preds lack is a consistent scoring punch up front out of the 2nd and 3rd lines. It’s hoped that Colin Wilson might help provide that going forward, but he’s been hampered with nagging injuries, so Mike Santorelli has assumed that role instead. David Legwand is anchoring a shutdown line with Joel Ward and Jerred Smithson that’s been very effective, and I expect that Rick Nash will have to shake them off all night long.
In goal, what started as an open competition is looking more and more like a traditional #1 and backup relationship, with Pekka Rinne having won 7 of his last 8 decisions. With both he and Dan Ellis in their contract year, each one looks to make a statement with every start.

A player that the Jackets really need to step up is RJ Umberger. He has been almost invisible of late, save for a handful of decent one-on-one rushes. He’s been with Brass and Jake for a few games now, so I’m sure that soon he will settle into a groove. Maybe tonight’s the night?

Fearless Prediction- Big game from Umby, he gets at least a goal.

Game Time: 8:00pm ET

Opponent’s Blog: On the Forecheck

Game Page: Blue Jackets vs Predators Coverage

TSN Preview: Blue Jackets vs Predators Preview

TV: FSN Ohio

Radio: WBNS-AM (1460); WWCD-FM (101.1)

More after the jump…

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Two hot clubs meet tonight — the Jackets have won three straight and the Predators have won four in a row, including wins over San Jose and New Jersey. Something has to give. The Blue Jackets are 6 of 15 (40 percent) on the power play in the past three games, and Nashville has killed 26 of 29 (89.7 percent) penalties the last nine games.

Jackets Links:

Columbus Blue Jackets / Columbus Blue Jackets Schedule

Columbus Blue Jackets Roster / Columbus Blue Jackets Stats

Here are the lineups for tonight’s tilt:

Columbus Blue Jackets

Kristian Huselius
Antoine Vermette Rick Nash
R.J. Umberger Derick Brassard Jakub Voracek
Jason Chimera Samuel Pahlsson
Mike Blunden
Raffi Torres
Derek MacKenzie Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin Anton Stralman
Rostislav Klesla
Jan Hejda
Marc Methot
Mike Commodore

Steve Mason
Mathieu Garon

EXTRA: Kris Russell, Tom Sestito

INJURED: Fredrik Modin, Andrew Murray, Derek Dorsett

Nashville Predators

Steve Sullivan
Jason Arnott J.P. Dumont
Jerred Smithson
David Legwand Joel Ward
Martin Erat
Mike Santorelli
Patric Hornqvist
Jordin Tootoo
Marcel Goc
Andreas Thuresson

Shea Weber Ryan Suter
Francis Bouillon
Kevin Klein
Dan Hamhuis Cody Franson

Pekka Rinne
Dan Ellis