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New-look Blue Jackets open against Predators

by Brian Hunter

BLUE JACKETS (0-0-0) at PREDATORS (0-0-0)


Season series: First of five meetings this season between these Central Division rivals. The Predators continued their domination of the Blue Jackets in 2011-12 by posting a 5-0-1 mark in six matchups. Mike Fisher had six goals, while Shea Weber posted a goal and eight assists. Nashville is 31-5-3 against Columbus since the 2006-07 season.

Big story: Unlike years past, Saturday's game won't feature the matchup of Ryan Suter on defense trying to contain the offensive abilities of Rick Nash. Over the summer, the Predators lost Suter via free agency to the Wild, while the Blue Jackets dealt Nash to the Rangers in a blockbuster that netted them Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: The John Davidson era has begun in Columbus, with the former St. Louis executive looking to engineer what would be an even more impressive turnaround than the one he pulled off with the Blues. In 11 seasons since joining the League, the Blue Jackets have just one playoff appearance and no postseason wins. They won't have Nash's usual 30-40 goals to rely on this season, but the haul they got back for him as well as recent additions like Jack Johnson, Nick Foligno and Sergei Bobrovsky indicate Davidson will have a strong nucleus from which to build.

"It's going to be different. But I think it's going to be good this way," forward RJ Umberger said in the Columbus Dispatch about life without Nash. "A lot of guys have an opportunity now to step up and take on a bigger role. It's on all of us now."

Predators: During the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Nashville broke through and won its first-ever postseason series. More was expected in 2012, as the Predators were seen by some as a sleeper pick to make it to the Final, but they were bounced again in the second round and then lost one of their stalwart defensemen in Suter. But they matched a huge offer sheet by the Flyers to Weber, retaining their captain, and can still rely on goalie Pekka Rinne as the last line of defense.

"The first thing I think about selfishly is the hockey part of it, is they're both at the best of their position in the NHL," general manager David Poile told The Tennessean. "When you start with that, you know we're building our team around those two players and you know that when you have the best at two positions in goal and defense, you should have a competitive hockey team."

Injury report: Nashville forward Gabriel Bourque suffered a lower-body injury last month while playing for AHL Milwaukee and his status for Saturday's game is uncertain.

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