|If there's one thing in the Blue Jackets favor heading into tonight's game against the Nashville Predators, it will be the familiarity factor. The Predators are no strangers to the Blue Jackets and vice versa, which has made for a bitter rivalry in the Central Division. These two teams faced each other Thursday night at Nationwide Arena and Nashville came away with a 3-0 win, but Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards thought his team played better than the final score showed. |
Only a game has passed since that last game and the Blue Jackets nearly ended the Red Wings' 16-game winning streak on Saturday night – losing to a fourth-round shootout goal by Valtteri Filppula at Joe Louis Arena. The Predators continued their hot streak with a 5-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena – their fourth straight win at home, keeping them in sixth place in the Western Conference. Nashville has won eight of its last nine games overall, and will look to win its fifth of six meetings with the Blue Jackets tonight.
The story of Thursday night’s game was Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, who shook off a pair of average games vs. the Blue Jackets earlier in the year to post a 38-save shutout and stymie several quality chances by Columbus. He made a great sliding stop on Rick Nash in the third period and robbed Derick Brassard while lying on his back to keep the Blue Jackets off the scoreboard – something no other previous opponent could do to them this season. Columbus was the last NHL team to be shutout in the 2011-12 season, and its streak of 47 straight games without being blanked was snapped.
The Predators have clicked just fine in the absence of star defenseman Ryan Suter, who is not expected to play tonight and miss his fourth consecutive game with an upper-body injury. Nashville has won two of the three games Suter has missed, with the lone defeat coming against the New York Rangers last week at Madison Square Garden.
The Blue Jackets will be without a big defenseman of their own, as Nikita Nikitin did not return to Saturday’s game in Detroit after colliding with the end boards.
| || || |
|Nash (16) ||Hornqvist, Legwand (13) |
|Prospal (21) ||Weber (23) |
|Nash (32) ||Weber, Erat (33) |
|Dorsett (109) ||Tootoo (62) |
|MacKenzie (+7) ||Weber (+15) |
|Sanford (8-10-4) |
|Rinne (26-11-4) |
|Sanford (2.50) ||Rinne (2.43) |
|Sanford (.914) ||Rinne (.924) || |
|• Antoine Vermette has points in five of the last six games after picking up an assist Saturday at Detroit. He has 1-4-5 during that stretch after being held to 1-1-2 the previous 13 games. He won 11-of-17 face-offs (64.7 percent) against the Red Wings and now ranks fourth (tied) in the NHL in face-off win percentage (57.7 percent). |
• Curtis Sanford stopped 29-of-31 shots in Saturday’s shootout loss at Detroit. He has allowed two or fewer goals in three-straight games and has a 1.95 goals-against average and .931 save percentage during that stretch.
• Tonight marks the sixth and final meeting overall and the last of three meetings at Bridgestone Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Predators. Columbus is 19-39-10 all-time against Nashville, including a 5-23-6 mark at Bridgestone Arena.
• Derek Dorsett picked up his first assist in three games with a helper Saturday at Detroit. He has points in four of the last seven games (1-3-4) and has collected 6-5-11 the last 26 games after being held to 1-0-1 the first 13 games of the season. He snapped an 11-game goalless skid with his eight of the season Jan. 17 vs. Edmonton. The eight goals are a career high and have doubled his previous best of four (set three times previously).