BLUE JACKETS (15-14-7) at PREDATORS (15-14-8)
TV: FS-O, FS-TN
Last 10: Columbus 5-2-3, Nashville 4-4-2
Season series: This is the fourth of five meetings. The Blue Jackets are 2-1-0 against the Predators.
Big story: Both teams made significant deals at the trade deal, the biggest of which will be wing Marian Gaborik making his debut on Thursday for Columbus. The Blue Jackets were extremely active on the trading deadline and also picked up wing Blake Comeau from the Calgary Flames and goalie Michael Leighton from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Nashville dealt wing Martin Erat, second all-time in franchise history in games, goals, assists and points, and will play without him as a member of the franchise for the first time since 2001.
Blue Jackets: With so many players changing uniforms on Wednesday, the Blue Jackets might need to make introductions at their morning skate – although so many formerly played for the New York Rangers it could be sort of a reunion. Gone are John Moore, Derek Dorsett (he missed the past 12 games with injury), Derick Brassard and Steve Mason. In are Comeau, Gaborik and Leighton.
Another face who should be back in the Columbus lineup on Thursday is forward Brandon Dubinsky, who is set to return from injury. At various times, Dubinsky, Gaborik, Vinny Prospal, Fedor Tyutin and Artem Anisimov all played for the New York Rangers.
“I played with Artie quite a bit and Dubi as well. I talked to Vinny,” Gaborik told TSN on Wednesday. “The most important thing was that I talked to him and he told me nothing but good things about playing there. It’s good to come somewhere where there are familiar faces. I hear it’s a good group of guys out there, a good team. I’m looking forward to playing with those guys again and some new guys.”
The Blue Jackets, long in the uncomfortable position of being little brother to the Predators in the Central Division, stand just one point behind Nashville in the Western Conference standings, as they attempt to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for only the second time in franchise history.
Predators: With Erat gone, coach Barry Trotz might have to do some line shuffling. Nashville has 13 forwards on the active roster but center Mike Fisher and wing Gabriel Bourque were scratched on Tuesday because of injuries.
Nashville, attempting to make the playoffs for the eighth time in the past nine seasons, entered Wednesday tied with the St. Louis Blues for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, the Predators have a significant handicap: They have played 37 games, the most in the conference, and three more than St. Louis. As a result, every game is a must-win.
The Predators are 4-1-2 in their past seven games and despite trading Erat, general manager David Poile thinks they can make the playoffs.
“Our players are playing good enough to make it,” he said of the trade. “This was clearly not giving up.”
Who’s hot: At .927, Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky ranks second in the League in save percentage. Center Mark Letestu had a goal and an assist in a 2-1 overtime win against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. For Nashville, goalie Pekka Rinne stopped 25 shots in a 3-1 win on Tuesday over the Colorado Avalanche. It marked the 11th time this season he has held the opposition to one goal or less. Wing Bobby Butler, who is likely to get back in the lineup for Nashville, has points in four of the last five games for which he has dressed. Butler sat out the last two game as a healthy scratch.
Injury report: For Columbus, forward Nick Foligno was placed on injured reserve on March 26 with an upper-body injury. … For Nashville, Fisher has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury and is questionable. Bourque, who missed Tuesday’s game with an upper-body injury, also is questionable. Center Colin Wilson (upper body) is on injured reserve.