The stage is set in Music City for the Nashville Predators (43-26-11) to secure a playoff berth if they can get a point against the Columbus Blue Jackets (34-33-13) tonight at the Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators are looking for more than just a playoff berth as a pair of wins to close out the season would give them a reasonable shot at home ice if Phoenix and Los Angeles split each of their weekend series against San Jose and Anaheim respectively.
The Predators have won sixteen straight games against Columbus in Nashville and the Blue Jackets would like nothing more than to block Nashville's entrance into the playoffs and end the streak.
The Jacket's futility in Nashville is documented by Tom Reed of the Columbus Dispatch, "As you know, they are 0-11-5 since the start of the 2006-07 season. It's the longest current streak of futility in the NHL. But in the past two seasons, for reasons that remain unexplained, the cost has been much higher than another 'L' in the Music City. The last five trips to Nashville have triggered losings streaks of: 5-games, 9-games, 2-games, 5-games and 7-seven games."
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 first meeting of the year at Bridgestone Arena. On February 22, the Predators looked horrible losing 4-0 in Columbus.
On February 27, the Preds won 3-2 in Nashville. Coming into that game, the Predators had lost four in a row and were in danger of falling into 12th place with a loss. Since that game, the Predators have gone 12-3-3 and have risen to fifth place while the Jackets went 3-10-7 and are mired in 13th place in the Western Conference.
The Blue Jackets have nothing to lose and are playing on a wing and a prayer. Rick Nash has been shut down for the season and Steve Mason (24-19-7, 2.97, .903) is hoping to fell well enough to be in net. Kris Russel is also out with a broken ankle, suffered in Tuesday's 3-0 loss to Dallas.
Per Josh Cooper, Barry Trotz said "there's a chance Sullivan could return before the end of the regular season." I would not expect to see him against Columbus. Also, it appears that Marty Erat, who left the game on Tuesday night, will not play which may allow J.P. Dumont to return to the line-up if Sullivan doesn't go.
Pekka Rinne (32-21-9, 2.14, .929) will be in net for the Predators and is likely to finish out the season against the Blues tomorrow night. The Predators will leave immediately after the game to travel to St. Louis for the last regular season game.
The Predators are offering a special Bonus College Night tonight sponsored by Best Buy. Tickets are $25 for the lower bowl and $10 for upstairs with a student ID while they last. All fans in attendance will receive a Predators team poster.
Other Game previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, Marc Torrence, Predatorial, The Tennessean, and Predators.com.
Game Previews from Ohio come from the Columbus Dispatch, The Dark Blue Jacket, and The Cannon.
Game Notes from NHL Media Services can be found here.
In Pred Nation...
The most unbelievable news to come out in a while comes from Jim Diamond. Pekka Rinne's jersey did actually fly on the space shuttle discovery in February. How could they not figure this out before now?
Josh Cooper writes that he Predators are still waiting and points out that the Preds winning ways follows the offense of Sergei Kostitsyn.
David Boclair discusses the quiet, steady leadership provided by Shea Weber in his first year as captain.
Dirk Hoag looks at the numbers to determine if Shea Weber is a Norris contender.
Dirk also found this little gem where the Preds may play the Capitals in a preseason game labeled the Baltimore Hockey Classic on September 20. A press conference is set for Monday.
No Thursday night game means Mark Willoughby's "My View" was up early this week.
Fang Faction takes a look at the talent brewing in Milwaukee.
Darren Eliot states the obvious in his SI piece saying that Nashville's hopes rest on Pekka Rinne.
Barry Trotz finishes second to Dan Bylsma in The Hockey News' picks for the Jack Adams Award. The Hockey News also awards their Calder picks.
Kris Martel looks at a fork in the road on February 27 when Columbus and Nashville headed in diferent directions.
Chris Burton says David Poile chose to play with "house money" at the trade deadline.
Several Preds do well in Kevin Allen's unofficial awards.
Cody Franson was on Puck Daddy Radio yesterday. He is on at the 32 minute mark.
The Milwaukee Admirals have several promotions going on as they try to clinch the Western Division tonight against the Texas Stars.
Around the NHL...
The NHL mourns the passing of EJ Maguire, VP of Central Scouting. He was 58. Here's a great story on his last meeting.
First the octopus in Detroit, then the catfish in Nashville, and now salmon are hitting the ice in Vancouver.
Adam Foote is expected to announce his retirement today at 11 a.m. local time at the Pepsi Center.
Vancouver's Raffi Torres was given a four game suspension for his hit on Jordan Eberle which will be the Canucks final two regular season games and the first two playoff games.
Patrick Hoffman looks at the messy goalie situation in Philadelphia.
Carolyn Christians looks at how the race for eight in the east has raised the bar.
Kingscast hit Episode #100! This is one to see as they look back at the history of the show.
Adam Proteau takes a look at his preseason predictions to see how they turned out. We will do this when the season is over. Here was my midseason look.
It was confirmed yesterday that Henrik Zetterberg is out for the regular season and day to day for the postseason.
From @Sean_Leahy: Versus will air the 2011 #NHL Draft Lottery next Tuesday, April 12 at 8 p.m. ET. That's really something to look forward to on an off night for the NHL.
Jon Jordan at Kukla's Korner is running a playoff beard contest. Go here for the rules.
Odds and Ends...
In an odd move, The Hangover 2 trailer was pulled form theaters. Here is what they don't want you to see.
Here's a photo slide show of a few last big west coast waves from winter. I really like the views since I've seen most of these beaches.
For those who long to own a Commodore 64, your chance is coming.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass