GAME 58: BLUE JACKETS VS. PREDATORS
NATIONWIDE ARENA, 6 P.M.
TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO / FOX SPORTS GO
RADIO: 97.1 & BLUEJACKETS.COM
The Jackets (37-15-5) are coming off two consecutive wins and are producing solid performances as they head into Sunday's match up against the Nashville Predators.
Brandon Dubinsky's line has found their offensive game thanks to Dubinsky's ten points (4-6-10) in his last eight games, including Friday's overtime winner against Pittsburgh. Recently recalled Oliver Bjorkstrand is bringing energy to his line with Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Saad, and All-Star Seth Jones has three goals and nine assists in his last 12 games.
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Jones, of course, joined the Blue Jackets from Nashville last season in exchange for Ryan Johansen. Sunday will mark the first time Johansen (9-31-40) will play at Nationwide since changing teams. He leads the Predators in scoring.
Here are five things to watch for:
- Win the shot attempt battle
Nashville is a top-five team when it comes to winning the 5-on-5 shot attempt battle. At even strength, they are earning 51.7% of all shot attempts in their favor this season, and averaging 45.8 attempts per game. Comparatively, the Jackets come into Sunday averaging just over 45 per game and earning 50.4% of all shot attempts.
- Scott Hartnell's return
Scott Hartnell missed the previous two games due to injury, but returned to the ice Saturday for the team's optional skate and says he is ready to play Sunday. Hartnell had gone hard into the end boards during Monday's game against the Rangers and his knees swelled up after taking the brunt of the impact. Overall, Hartnell was thankful to avoid major injury. His left skate hit his right calf and the skate blade sliced through the kevlar-reinforced socks all NHL players wear. Without the extra sock protection, things could have been a lot worse.
- Fourth line changes.
Lukas Sedlak left Friday's game after playing just over two minutes and did not return. He's currently classified as day-to-day with a lower body injury. Assuming he can't go against Nashville, Tortorella says he plans to return Sam Gagner to his natural position at center, and Matt Calvert will move to right wing with Hartnell's return on the left side.
- Home sweet home.
Sunday's game is the Jackets' sixth of seven straight at Nationwide Arena, and the third time they face an opponent on the second half of a back-to-back. This stretch is a time the team earmarked as an opportunity to "bank points" according to Nick Foligno, and they've picked up six of the available ten so far. Overall, the Jackets are 21-8-1 at home.
- Win the battles on the dot.
The Blue Jackets had one of their stronger performances in the face-off circle Friday versus Pittsburgh, winning 63% of the 65 draws. Post game, Tortorella praised the efforts by William Karlsson (68%) who lined up primarily against Evgeni Malkin and of Dubinsky (67%) who matched up with Sidney Crosby. The centermen will have to be strong again Sunday - Nashville has won the faceoff battle in all 12 of their previous 12 games heading into their game Saturday against Minnesota.
PROJECTED CBJ LINEUP: