|The Nashville Predators entered Tuesday night’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden as one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference. They had won eight of their previous nine games and climbed to sixth in the playoff standings, playing some of their best hockey of late away from Bridgestone Arena. |
And though they ended up losing that game 3-0 and falling victim to Henrik Lundqivst’s fourth shutout of the year, the Predators had their five-game winning streak halted by the No. 1 team in the league and played a solid game overall. Anders Lindback started in goal for Nashville in that game, so it’s a safe bet the Blue Jackets will face Pekka Rinne in tonight’s game at Nationwide Arena. In the latest edition of this heated Central Division rivalry, there figures to be a stronger element of emotion considering the Blue Jackets’ heartbreaking defeat in the last meeting.
The Predators scored the game-winning goal with 8.4 seconds to play from Martin Erat on Dec. 22, a game in which the Blue Jackets scored three power-play goals and got a Jeff Carter hat trick in the first period. It was two weeks after Nashville erased a 3-1 deficit with less than 90 seconds left, then came back to win in overtime at Nationwide Arena on Dec. 8 – and a lot has changed since that point.
The Blue Jackets are playing better hockey and coming off a come-from-behind win over the Edmonton Oilers two nights ago, and are riding the hot play of goaltender Curtis Sanford. Tonight’s game will be the fourth of four in a 10-day homestand before departing for Detroit on Friday, and the Blue Jackets have been competitive in each game. Columbus out-worked the Phoenix Coyotes last weekend in its 4-3 win, and only a late goal from Patrick Marleau a night later could save the San Jose Sharks from an aggressive Blue Jackets attack in the third period.
Predators defenseman Ryan Suter, who missed the game against the Rangers due to injury, is not expected to play tonight in Columbus.
| || || |
|Nash (16) ||Legwand (13) |
|Prospal (21) ||Weber (23) |
|Nash (32) ||Weber (32) |
|Dorsett (107) ||Tootoo (62) |
|MacKenzie (+7) ||Weber (+11) |
|Sanford (8-10-3) |
|Rinne (24-11-4) |
|Sanford (2.54) ||Rinne (2.50) |
|Sanford (.912) ||Rinne (.922) || |
|• Rinne is 14-2-0 in his last 16 decisions to improve to 24-11-5 on the season –the second-most wins in the NHL. He also ranks second in the league in saves (1,141) and appearances (41), while ranking third in shots faced (1,238). |
• Rick Nash has points in three-straight games and four of the last five after notching an assist Tuesday against Edmonton. The assist was his first since Dec. 31 vs. Washington, a span of six games. He has recorded 12-8-20 the last 27 games after being held 1-3-4 the previous 10 games. He leads the team in shots with 173, ranking third in the NHL.
• Derek MacKenzie snapped an 11-game goalless skid with his fifth of the season Tuesday vs. Edmonton. He had last scored Dec. 18 at St. Louis. The goal proved to be the game-winner, his first since Mar. 12 at Carolina, a span of 58 games. The goal also snapped a nine-game pointless skid.
• Tonight marks the fifth of six meetings overall and the final of three meetings at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Predators. Columbus is 19-38-10 all-time against Nashville, including a 14-15-4 mark at Nationwide Arena.