The Nashville Predators returned to the Sommet Center for morning skate in preparation for tonight’s match up against division rivals the Columbus Blue Jackets; a match-up of two of the league’s hottest teams. The Preds are in the middle of a four game winning streak, while the Jackets are heading into the game with three consecutive wins.
Tonight’s the first of six regular season match-ups between the Central Division rivals, however they did meet twice in the preseason. The squads will renew acquaintances three more times before the end of December, including December 10 in Nashville.
The home team won all six meetings last season – each including a shootout win on home ice. As the Preds continue to move up the Western Conference standings, they realize that taking care of games within the division will go a long way toward helping them crack the playoff picture.
“It’s very important,” defenseman Kevin Klein
said. “We have always had a good rivalry with these guys because we see them so much. We play similar style games. It is always a battle and they are always good games.”
Goaltender Pekka Rinne
also voiced that this was a big game not only because of it being a division game but also because of the long standing rivalry. “It’s huge. We face these guys many times so every single game is really big and obliviously we are in the division so it just makes it that much more meaningful.” Rinne went on to add, “It’s our rival. We don’t like them, they don’t like us. It’s that kind of match up.”
One of the key to tonight’s game will be the Preds ability to match-up with Jackets leading scorer Rich Nash. Nash, tied for third in the league with 14 goals, has 14 points in his last 12 games and already leads Columbus in scoring by nine points.
“He’s a skilled player. He is a big powerful guy; he can drive the net and he’s got a good shot. You have to be aware when he is on the ice. You have to keep him in front of you as well as take his time and space away,” Klein commented on Nash’s play.
Rinne added, “He’s a great, great player and a really good goal scorer but every team has those one or two star players. He is one of those for sure. You just have to be focused and awake when he is on this ice. You have to know where he is. It’s a funny thing with those goal scorers, the puck always seems to find them.”Injury report: Colin Wilson
remains sidelined with a groin injury.