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Morning Skate Report: Dec. 10

by Jena Smith / Nashville Predators
Division rivals the Columbus Blue Jackets are in town and the Nashville Predators are looking to place a larger separation between the teams in the standings. The Preds are currently three points ahead of the Jackets; a division team which will be seen three times in the month of December.

“We have built a rivalry with this Columbus team. It is going to be an exciting game, both teams are hard working teams,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said after morning skate. “It adds a little bit extra to the game. Obviously it’s a team we want to beat every single time, that’s probably the thing that drives the team.”

Not only is there a strong desire to win in a rivalry game, the closeness in the standings is also in the back of the players’minds. “The standings are so close; there are such few point differences, so every single game, especially the division games like this are huge,” Rinne added.

A more confidant Patric Hornqvist -- fresh off his team-leading third game-winning goal on Tuesday night -- knows the team must come out hard and fast in order to pick up the points in the standings. “It is always going to be a tough game against Columbus, a division rival. So we need to come out hard and have a good quick start, manage the puck well, and if we do that we will get the two points. The division games are always the most intense games, like a playoff game.”

Hornqvist scored his first goal after a 12 game drought Tuesday against Vancouver. Contributing to the score sheet helped Hornqvist regain some confidence and he is looking forward to posting up in front of the net for another one tonight.

While there is a definite rivalry between teams, Nashville has won 12 consecutive home games against Columbus dating back to November 18, 2006, a stat the Preds coaching staff quickly shrugs aside.

“That doesn’t mean anything tonight," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "I didn’t even know that. I just look at Columbus as a rival and we have to find a way to beat them tonight that’s plain and simple. History is history, the present is here today so what happens tonight is important not what happened in the past.”

What to Look For:
The coaches juggled around some line combinations prior to Tuesday's win vs. Vancouver, including tweaking the Arnott line with Martin Erat joining Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan. Erat managed to notch his second career hat trick in a Nashville 4-2 win.

Coach Trotz will likely open the game with the trio together, but wouldn't commit beyond that. “It might be temporary, it might be permanent. We will move him around as we always do. That first game putting them together was more positives than negatives, that’s for sure.”

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