While most folks are planning to wind down for a long holiday weekend, the Nashville Predators begin a busy three game stretch that will have major implications in their ability to return to the top eight in the Western Conference.
The Preds will host Columbus tonight, fly to Dallas for a game tomorrow, and then play Detroit at the Bridgestone Arena on Monday after a brief 48 hour Christmas break. Dallas and Detroit are ahead of the Preds and Columbus is buried in last place, making tonight's game a must win situation for Nashville.
This will be the fourth meeting of the season for the Preds and Jackets. To this point, the road team has won every game. In the season's opening game, the Preds won 4-3 at Columbus and that was followed with a dramatic win there on December 8 when the Jackets collapsed and allowed the Preds to win 4-3 in overtime after the Preds did little for 58 minutes.
On November 19, Columbus won for the first time in Nashville in 18 attempts when they held on for a 4-3 overtime win. Nashville holds a 21-2-(1)-1 record over the last ten years at Bridgestone Arena and Amanda DiPaolo has pointed out that Columbus has never won two games in a row in Nashville.
As always, when the Preds and Jackets meet, you can expect to see fisticuffs as Jordin Tootoo and Brian McGrattan should dress and find suitable dance partners early in the contest.
After taking a night off on Tuesday, it is expected that Pekka Rinne (15-9-4, 2.48, .924) will return to the net for the Predators. It is less clear who will be in net for the Jackets. Curtis Sanford (5-5-3, 2.42, .914) was in agony on Sunday but claimed to be ready to go yesterday. Steve Mason (4-14-1, 3.52, .880) would be the other option.
Update: The Morning update from the Columbus Dispatch indicates that Curtis Sanford will get the start.
The game starts at 7 p.m. and as usual, it will be another Thursday College Night special. The game will only be available locally on 102.5 The Game Radio and the NHL Center Ice package.
For special POTG pricing go here and use the offer code "preds" for discount tickets from Ticketmaster.
For other Predator previews, check out Ryan Porth, Amanda DiPaolo, David Boclair, Marc Torrence, Predatorial, The Tennessean, and Predators.com. Ryan Porth also has an audio clip of Pekka Rinne talking about tonight's game.
For Columbus previews go to the Columbus Dispatch, The Dark Blue Jacket, and The Cannon.
BlueJackets.com has one of the best Media Information sites in the league and it is open to the public.
The game notes from NHL Media Services can be found here.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass