The Nashville Predators are set for their final game before the NHL All-Star Weekend as they host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at Bridgestone Arena. It's the first of two meetings this season between the former Central Division rivals, and the second time the two have faced one another since the Seth Jones-for-Ryan Johansen swap in January of 2016.
After a five-game road trip that saw the Preds go 4-1-0, they returned home on Tuesday night and were dealt a 5-4 overtime loss by Buffalo. Even with the result, Nashville still has points in four straight with a 6-1-1 mark in their last eight. Filip Forsberg, Cody McLeod, Viktor Arvidsson and James Neal all tallied for the Predators on Tuesday night and Juuse Saros made 32 saves in net.
The former Blue Jacket Johansen leads the Preds with 36 points on the season, followed by Forsberg with 32 and Arvidsson with 30. Neal's 17 goals lead the team; Forsberg has 15, including six in his last seven. Arvidsson and Mike Fisher have each scored 12 times. Goaltender Pekka Rinne has gone 18-12-6; Saros is 5-3-2.
Columbus (32-11-4) sits second in the Metropolitan Division with 68 points, but the team is 5-5-0 in their last 10, including a 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday. Cam Atkinson leads the club with 24 goals and 46 points, followed by Alexander Wennberg with 40 points and Nick Foligno with 38. Foligno has found the back of the net on 17 occasions and Brandon Saad has done so 15 times. Jones has seven goals and 22 points from the blue line. In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky has gone 28-8-2 with a .930 save percentage.
Video: The Preds host a top East team before the break
Morning Update: Harry Zolnierczyk appears set to re-enter the Preds lineup tonight. For a full look at Nashville's projected lineup, click here.
With the Preds wanting to head into the All-Star Break on a winning note, here are three things to watch for:
Let It Burn:
After the Predators saw a 4-2 lead evaporate during Tuesday's game versus Buffalo, the mood in the locker room was less than chipper. Head Coach Peter Laviolette remarked that he hopes his team will let the result against the Sabres leave them "irritated" going into tonight's game and perhaps utilize that to their advantage. Not only will Nashville's start be key, but their finish will be equally, if not more important, given what happened their last time out.
Video: Johansen talks about facing his former team
Testing the Mettle:
Nashville will see a Columbus team for the first time this season that hasn't had the same consistent success over the past couple of weeks that they enjoyed earlier, but they're still the same group that won 16 consecutive games through the month of December. The chance to go into the All-Star Break with a win adds even more motivation.
"We're playing a really good hockey team," Captain Mike Fisher said. "This is one of the best teams in the East and they're going to test us, probably like we haven't been tested in a little while. We have to come with a great effort. It always makes the break better when you can end it on a win and feel good about it, so we're looking forward it."
Video: Laviolette wants Preds to stay out of the box vs. CBJ
One Year Later:
For the second time since they were traded for one another on Jan. 6, 2016, Ryan Johansen and Seth Jones will skate against their former clubs, both meetings coming in Nashville. It's a trade that will likely be analyzed for years to come, with a franchise d-man being swapped for a No. 1 center. Although that first meeting following the deal is long gone, that doesn't mean that the two wouldn't mind a clutch, individual performance against their former clubs.
When You Go:
Tonight's 7 p.m. CT start at Bridgestone Arena is MEND Night, coming on the heels of the Nashville Predators Foundation making a $500,000 donation to MEND in an effort to end violence against women and girls in Nashville and beyond. Fans can look for a PSA to be played during the game, as well as information as to how they can get involved in the cause. Doors to the Arena open at 5 p.m.
Tonight's game is also presented by McDonald's. Fans in attendance will receive a coupon for a free medium drink and medium fries with the purchase of a large sandwich.
Take It In:
Tonight's game can be seen on Fox Sports Tennessee, beginning with Predators Live! at 6:30 p.m. CT. Predators Pregame on 102.5 the Game and the Predators Radio Network begins at 6 p.m., an hour ahead of puck drop.