The Nashville Predators (17-11-2) continue their homestand tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets (14-11-5) with a 12 game home win streak against the Blue Jackets on the line. Columbus last won in Nashville on April 3, 2006.
The two teams last met on November 21 with the Preds winning 4-3 in a shootout with David Legwand getting the game deciding goal. Pekka Rinne stopped two of three Columbus shooters, the exception being Rick Nash who skated into the net in a memorable play. The Preds fired 48 shots against the Jackets in the first meeting of the year.
Columbus has struggled recently, going 1-5-3 leading up to last night's 3-0 shutout win by Steve Mason. Fingers have been pointed at Steve Mason as part of the reason for the team's recent tail-spin. After his Calder Trophy winning season, he has not lived up to expectations this season going 10-8-5 with a 3.29 GAA and a .892 save percentage.
Mason will not be an issue tonight as Columbus will start Mathieu Garon (4-3-0, 3.10, .898). Garon has some odd statistics in his resume. He has posted 13 straight shootout wins which is an NHL record (18-4 lifetime in the SO). Also he is best when facing a lot of action with a 27-7-2 record when facing 35 shots or more. Garon is 2-6-0 against the Preds in his career.
Pekka Rinne (12-6-1, .910, 2.58) will get the start for the Predators after his impressive 4-2 win over the Canucks on Tuesday. John Glennon also reports that Dave Scatchard may also return to the Preds line-up after missing the last five games due to injury. Alexander Sulzer will get his second start in a row with Cody Franson sitting in the press box again.
Preds Keys to the Game
Play a Physical Game without Taking Penalties...
Any time these two teams hook up, there is a great chance of a fight, especially with Jordin Tootoo in the line-up. The Jackets do not like Toots and are checking for his number from the start of the game. Tootoo is the career Predator PIM holder and 88 of his 550 PIMs (16%) have come against Columbus.
Columbus is fourth in the NHL on the power play effectiveness (23.3%) and have gotten 30% of their 90 goals on the man advantage. Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock has indicated that his team may be guilty of not scoring enough on the five on five because they are waiting for the power play for offense.
The Preds have the second fewest penalty minutes per game (9.1 per game) and need to stay out of the box to keep the Jackets power play unit off the ice.
Top Players Need to be the Top Players...
Marty Erat needs to follow-up his hat trick with another productive game. Jason Arnott (six points in the last four games), Steve Sullivan (six points in four games), David Legwand (11 points in 12 games) and Jordin Tootoo (six points in nine games) need to continue to produce while the Preds look for contributions from the others as well.
Play Sixty Minutes...
The schedule is in our favor for a change with Columbus, and our next opponent, Detroit, playing the second half of back to backs while we will have have had a day off prior to game day. The Preds need to play with jump right from the start and keep pushing until the end. The Blue Jackets will be looking for a barrage of shots after the last game and we need to oblige.
Pekka Needs a Second Strong Game in a Row...
After winning seven games in a row, Pekka went 0-2-1 before Tuesday's outstanding performance against Vancouver. He needs to take that confidence and start another streak with tonight's game.
The Preds will practice on Friday before meeting the Red Wings on Saturday night. The will then pay a return visit to Columbus before playing the Lightning at home on Tuesday night, ending the extended run of playing 12 of 16 games in 32 days in the friendly confines of the Sommet Center.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass