The Blue Jackets (16-23-5) will return to their home ice, where they are 4-1-1 over their past six games, to cap a home-and-home series with the division-rival Nashville Predators (30-11-3) at 7 p.m. Every fan in attendance will receive a free white t-shirt, courtesy of FSN Ohio, to don during the contest as part of attempt to “white out” Nashville.
Columbus began the back-to-back Friday on the road with a 2-0 loss at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. The setback puts even more significance on Saturday’s contest as the Jackets have started their crucial six-game gauntlet against division foes at 0-1-1. Wins over Nashville, Chicago and Detroit could give Columbus a sizeable boost of momentum going into the all-star break, not to mention a hike in the standings.
Forward Anson Carter, two games off a brief stint on injured reserve, will lead the charge for the CBJ, having scored 16 points in his last 16 games. He handed out two assists in his last game at Nationwide Arena, a 4-3 shootout loss to St. Louis. Forwards Dan Fritsche and Manny Malhotra as well as defenseman Aaron Johnson all lit the lamp during their last skate on the Nationwide ice. Other Jackets playing well include forward Nikolai Zherdev, who has tallied 1-3-4 in his last five games, and defenseman Ron Hainsey, who has two assists in his last three games and has already posted a career-high 4-16-20 this season.
Forward Fredrik Modin has certainly gotten comfortable at home. Perhaps the best acquisition of the off-season, Modin has scored 13 of his 19 points at Nationwide Arena. Another CBJ stalwart who thrives on the home ice is David Vyborny, who has scored eight of his ten goals in Columbus.
Regardless of where and when you play the Predators, they always pose a challenge. This year, Nashville sits atop the Central Division with 63 standings points. They own a 4-0 advantage on the CBJ this year with three more meetings after tonight’s game still on the schedule–one, in fact, this coming Thursday in Nashville again. Veteran forward Paul Kariya leads a balanced offensive attack with 14-33-47. Kariya is one of Nashville’s six double-digit goal scorers. Chris Mason and Tomas Vokoun comprise a formidable goaltending tandem, mustering a stingy combined GAA of 2.39.
As always, Huntington Green Seats will be available for tonight's game and every game during the 2006-07 season. The Huntington Green Seats are 250 seats that are priced at $10 for every home game and are available only at the Nationwide Arena Ticket Office two hours prior to game time.
Those unable to get to the arena and revel in the white mass of Columbus frenzied fans can tune into FSN Ohio at 6:30 p.m. for IceBreaker, the pre-game show, and should keep watching after the game for the post-game show, Blue Jackets Ice Cap.
- John Carlisle, CBJ.com Correspondent