Ryan Johansen returns to the state of Ohio tonight as the Nashville Predators finish their back-to-back set with a visit to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. It's the second and final meeting between the two clubs this season; the Preds defeated the Jackets 4-3 in Nashville on Jan. 26.
This evening will mark Johansen's first game in Columbus since the Blue Jackets traded him to Nashville in exchange for Seth Jones over a year ago in a one-for-one swap.
Nashville is coming off a 5-2 loss to Minnesota last night in their first game back after the five-day break. Colin Wilson and P.K. Subban each recorded their eighth goals of the season and Pekka Rinne took the loss in net.
Johansen leads the Preds with 40 points, followed by Viktor Arvidsson with 39 and Filip Forsberg with 35. Arvidsson is tops on the team with 18 goals, while James Neal has scored 17 times and Forsberg has tallied on 16 occasions. Rinne is 22-15-6 in net; Juuse Saros has gone 5-5-2 this season.
Columbus (37-15-5) will conclude a six-game home stand tonight, and most recently beat Pittsburgh 2-1 in overtime on Friday. Cam Atkinson leads the club with 27 goals and 50 points, followed by Alexander Wennberg who has 46 points and Nick Foligno with 42. Foligno also has 20 goals on the season; Brandon Saad has tallied 17 times. Sergei Bobrovsky carries a 31-12-3 record between the pipes.
Video: Ryan Johansen returns to Columbus with the Preds
Update: Ryan Johansen talks about making his first return trip to Columbus as a member of the opposition.
As the Preds look for two points in the Buckeye State, here are three things to watch for:
There's no doubting that tonight's game carries a little extra emotion for Ryan Johansen. Selected fourth overall in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Blue Jackets, Johansen skated for four-plus seasons in Columbus before being dealt to Nashville in January of 2016.
By way of the schedule, tonight will mark the first time Johansen has appeared in a game at Nationwide Arena as a visitor, something he's been looking forward to for a while.
"I have some lifelong friends on that hockey club, so it's great to see them as individuals and as a team having success - so as much as I like seeing them do well, when we're up against them, I hope we steal two points," Johansen said. "It'll be an exciting game."
Just as Johansen has put up points for the Preds, the other player involved in the deal, former Preds defenseman Seth Jones, has come into his own as a top defenseman, recording 12 points in his last 12 games. An NHL All-Star this season, Jones takes down top minutes and has tallied 10 goals and 32 points from the backend for Columbus.
Nashville's first game back from the five-day break, a 5-2 loss in Minnesota last night, is a game where the score may look worse than the effort. The Predators outshot the Wild and scored twice in the third period after going down 3-0 to stage a partial comeback. Sure, there will be corrections to make, but there's also things to like from the team after a week of rest.
"We'll look at some stuff [this] morning I'm sure and things we can do better, but our guys, we competed hard," Johansen said after last night's game. "That's the main thing, so as long as we lace them up again tomorrow and have the same work ethic, hopefully a couple bounces will go our way - and stay out of the box a little more - and we'll be successful."
Take It In:
Tonight's game comes with a 5 p.m. CT puck drop, with pregame coverage beginning on Fox Sports Tennessee at 4:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. on 102.5 The Game and the Preds Radio Network.