By Amanda DiPaolo
Nashville Predators 9-6-3
Columbus Blue Jackets 12-6-0
After starting the season 5-0-3 and then losing 5 in a row, the Nashville Predators are back on track, having gone 4-0-1 in the last five games. Saturday night, the Predators beat the Carolina Hurricanes in a shootout, 2-1.
While Columbus sits in 5th in the West, and the Predators in 13th, there are only 3 points separating the rivals. This is the first of six meetings between the two clubs. Traditionally, the Predators have had an edge over the Blue Jackets, but Columbus has exceeded expectations so far this season. Last year, Nashville had a 5-1-0 record against the Jackets. The Predators won all three home games a season ago, as well as two in Columbus. Despite the lopsided record, four of the six games required extra time or a shootout to determine the winner. The Predators have a 40-12-(4)-1 all-time record against the Jackets.
The Key to the game for Nashville is to continue to play responsible hockey and maintain composure as the team continues to battle major injuries. Ryan Suter left the team over the weekend, returning to Nashville to be with his wife. The couple are expecting their first child. However, Suter re-aggravated his knee in Montreal. The Predators are also without David Legwand who was injured Thursday also injured against the Canadiens. Legwand is listed as having a lower body injury.
With one half of Nashville’s top defense pairing out of the lineup, as well as the top shut down center, players will have to step up, or continue to step up, as the case may be. On Saturday, that player was Jerred Smithson. In Legwand’s role, centering Joel Ward and Jordin Tootoo, Smithson scored the Predators only goal in regulation, went 64% in the faceoff circle, played 3 minutes of shorthanded ice time, and all in only 13 minutes of total ice time.
With the exception of one period of play against Toronto last Tuesday, Nashville has been solid on the penalty kill, perfect for the fourth time in the last five games. The Predators have a 7-1-2 record when not giving up a power-play goal. Legwand’s absence means players like Smithson and Nick Spaling, inserted back into the lineup, need to continue to play solid hockey.
Columbus has struggled on the power play, ranking 27th in the league. Only Nashville, Florida and New Jersey have worse power play percentages.
Nashville is 4-2-1 against the increasingly impressive Central Division. In fact, Nashville is the only Central Division team not currently in playoff position. For the Predators to continue to win, they will need to do so without some key players. Besides Suter and Legwand, the Predators are also missing Matthew Lombardi who suffered a concussion against Chicago the second game of the season and has not played since.
Columbus is without Ethan Moreau, who had hand surgery and is out for at least another two weeks. Kristian Huselius has a high ankle sprain and is on injured reserve. Derek Dorsett is questionable for Monday night’s game with an undisclosed injury.
After Monday’s contest, the Predators will finally return to Bridestone Arena. The game in Columbus will be the last game of a month-long stretch between October 23 and November 23 where the Predators only played two home games — one on October 23 against the Blues and the other November 13 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The next home game for the Predators is Wednesday night against the Blues. The game is being televised nationally on Versus.
Are you looking for tickets to an upcoming Predators home game? Follow this link for discounted tickets. Make an account and then use the word Preds as the code for the discount. The next Predators home game is Wednesday, November 24th when the Preds take on the St. Louis Blues for the third and final time at Bridgestone Arena. The game is going to be televised nationally on Versus. You do not want to miss it!