|An old hockey adage states that the first game back home after an extended road trip is among the toughest to play, for a variety of reasons including emotional letdown. There will be no need to worry about the emotional factor to tonight’s game with the Nashville Predators, one of the Blue Jackets’ most bitter rivals and a team that always brings a competitive game, at Nationwide Arena. |
Fresh off a thrilling 3-2 shootout win at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night, Columbus heads home to face a Predators club that hasn’t played its best hockey of late. Nashville is 3-6-1 in its last 10 games and has won just four of 14 one-goal games it has been a part of this season – very uncharacteristic of a Barry Trotz-coached hockey team. They have lost two straight games (both on home ice) to the Buffalo Sabres and Phoenix Coyotes, and have been behind the eight-ball in the opening minutes frequently.
Tuesday’s loss to the Coyotes was heartbreaking for the Predators at the beginning and the end of regulation: Phoenix opened the scoring less than 10 seconds into the game with a goal from Taylor Pyatt, and got the game-winner from defenseman Keith Yandle with 1:45 remaining in the third period. Though things aren’t going well for the Predators, the Blue Jackets know that this Central Division rivalry never lacks intensity.
The last meeting between these two teams was one of their most dramatic in recent years. Having not won at Bridgestone Arena in over five years, the Blue Jackets took a 3-2 lead early in the third period on a power-play goal from R.J. Umberger, only to see Nashville tie the game in the final minutes. Antoine Vermette’s face-off win in overtime got the puck right into the wheelhouse of James Wisniewski, and “The Wiz” uncorked a wicked slap shot that ended the game.
Back on Oct. 7, the Predators were in town for opening night in Columbus – a game that the Blue Jackets had a pretty good grasp on until the final 30 minutes. Rookie Craig Smith broke a 1-1 tie with a wraparound goal in the second period, and Matt Halischuk made it a 3-1 Nashville lead just minutes into the third period.
| || || |
|Nash (8) ||Smith (8) |
|Prospal (14) ||Smith (14) |
|Prospal (21) ||Smith (22) |
|Dorsett (66) ||Tootoo (45) |
|MacKenzie (+6) ||Weber (+14) |
|Sanford (5-3-2) |
|Rinne (10-9-4) |
|Sanford (2.07) ||Rinne (2.59) |
|Sanford (.924) ||Rinne (.921) || |
|• Columbus closed out a four-game road trip Tuesday at Montreal, and finished with a 2-2-0 mark on a trip that included visits to Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. After opening the season 2-12-1, the Blue Jackets have gone 6-4-2 their last 12 games. |
• R.J. Umberger snapped a four-game goalless skid with his fourth of the season Tuesday at Montreal. He had last scored Nov. 25 vs. Buffalo. He also had an assist on Vinny Prospal’s goal, which was his first helper in 14 games, as he last had an assist Oct. 30 vs. Anaheim. It also was his first multi-point game since Oct. 25 vs. Detroit.
• Tonight marks the third of six meetings overall and second of three at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Predators. Columbus is 19-36-10 all-time against Nashville, including a 14-14-4 mark at Nationwide Arena. The home team had won 19 of 23 prior to this season, but the road team has come away victorious in both meetings this season.
• Columbus has fired 30-or-more shots on goal in 18-of-27 games and ranks eighth in the NHL in shots on goal per game (32.1), while allowing fewer than 30 shots in 14-of-27 games and ranking seventh (tied) in the NHL in shots against per game (28.8).
LW - #13
• The 22-year-old defenseman made his NHL debut against the Blue Jackets on Feb. 22, 2011, in the arena where he took the stage as the 23rd overall pick (first round) in the 2007 Entry Draft – Nationwide Arena. He scored his first goal against Columbus on Feb 27, 2011 (Mathieu Garon).
• Blum is he first California-born and -raised player to be selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft.
D Radek Martinek (upper body); indefinitely
D Kristian Huselius (lower body); indefinitely