The Nashville Predators (31-23-8) host the Columbus Blue Jackets (31-23-6) today at 2 p.m. at the Bridgestone Arena.
There is a lot on the line in this game. The Predators are in the midst of a four game losing streak where even the hockey gods have turned against them. After the game, they head out west for a four game road trip where three of the four games are against teams ahead of them in the standings.
If the Predators' struggles continue and they lose to Columbus in regulation, they could fall to twelfth place in the Western Conference if Anaheim beats the hapless Avs later today.
This is the fifth meeting between the two teams this season. The Preds lost the first meeting 2-0 on November 22 at Nationwide in a perfect outing for the Jackets. On December 1st, Steve Sullivan had the shootout winner in a 4-3 Nashville win. On January 2, the Predators took a 4-1 win in the "paint peeling" game in the only meeting of the year at Bridgestone Arena. Last Tuesday, the Predators looked horrible losing 4-0 in Columbus.
The good news for the Preds is that Columbus has lost 15 in a row in Nashville. The bad news is that Columbus is hot and have gone 8-1-1 in their last ten and have not lost on the road in regulation since January 8. Columbus also has a new man in Craig Rivet who they picked up on waivers.
Pekka Rinne (21-18-6, 2.16, .927) will go in net for the Preds and either Steve Mason (22-14-2, 2.97, .905) or Mathieu Garon (9-9-4, 2.60, .904) will go for Columbus.
The keys to the game for the Predators are:
1. Overcome bad luck by getting an early lead of two to three goals (stating the obvious).
2. Roll four lines since they basically played with three yesterday and the Jackets are well rested.
3. Play a full 60 minutes and do not collapse in the third period.
Tomorrow, the Predators head out west for games in Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary and San Jose and will not play at home until they face Minnesota on March 10. After the road trip, the Preds play 12 of their last 15 at home.
After the game the Bridgestone Area will be busy with a postgame concert by Hawk Nelson and the Preds Cup Championship game between Ravenwood and Brentwood.
Other Previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, Dirk Hoag, Paul McCann, Hockey Night in Nashville, The Tennessean, and Predators.com.
Enemy game previews come from the Columbus Dispatch, The Dark Blue Jacket, and The Cannon.
Here is our game story from yesterday's game.
Josh Cooper had his game story, notes column, and postgame ponderings.
David Boclair has his story at The City Paper.
From the blog world reports come from Amanda DiPaolo, Mark Willoughby, Chris Burton (with his advances stats), and, Jeremy Gover.
The other side of the story comes from The Dallas Morning News, ESPN Dallas, the Star-Telegram, The Dallas Stars Blog, and Defending Big D.
In Pred Nation...
Dirk Hoag has a good analysis of what the Predators face with salary and players available for the trade deadline.
AJ at Pull My Fang Finger has a great take off on Hunter S Thompson with Fear and Loathing in NashVegas.
Wade Belak cleared waivers and is was sent to Milwaukee. He will have to fight every AHL wannabe tough guy that is wanting to make a mark and impress the big clubs.
Ryan Ellis became the third OHL defenseman to rack up 300 career points. He is 30 away from the all time record held by Hall of Famer Denis Potvin.
The Admirals lost in overtime to Rockford 4-3. It sounds like Anders Lindback is headed back to Nashville. Also of note, Roman Josie was injured to an unknown extent.
Around the NHL...
In the Saturday Faceoff, Ryan and Patrick discuss the question of whether the trade deadline is overrated.
The pressure of trade deadline appears to be getting to Nick Kypreos according to this story about his Tweet.
The New York Rangers acquired Bryan McCabe from the Panthers in exchange for Tim Kennedy and a third round draft pick.
Odds and Ends...
This is too cool! A passenger on a commercial airliner videoed the Space Shuttle Discovery's liftoff on Thursday.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass