Mar 19, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Jared Boll (40) and Nashville Predators defenseman Jonathon Blum (7) battle for the puck along the boards during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Gameday: Nashville Predators at Columbus Blue Jackets, 4/27/13

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

at COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

April 27th, 2013
Nationwide Arena
Columbus, Ohio
6:00 p.m. CDT
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Columbus leads season series 3-1

The Nashville Predators’ season finally comes to a close tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets, in the two teams’ final meeting as division rivals.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

(23-17-7, 4th in Central)

The Blue Jackets are heading off to the Eastern Conference next season, but first they’re looking to make just the second playoff appearance in franchise history. To do so they need to finish one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild, who are currently tied with Columbus but hold the tiebreaker advantage from having won more games in regulation and overtime.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Vancouver Canucks

The Nashville Predators are Sergei Bobrovsky’s final test of the 2013 season. (PHOTO: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Key players

Sergei Bobrovsky (20-11-6, 2.03 GAA, .931 SV%) should be considered one of the favorites for this year’s Vezina Trophy. In January and February his record was a combined 3-6-3. Since then he has gone 17-5-3 and played so well that the team traded Steve Mason to the Philadelphia Flyers. Regardless of how their season ends, Bob has given the Jackets a solid foundation to build upon for the future.

Mark Letestu (13G-14A) has three goals and an assist in his last three games. That has moved him into second place on the team in scoring behind Vinny Prospal (12G-17A), who has 11 points in his last 13 games. Both have been instrumental in the Jackets’ improbable push for the playoffs.

Others to watch

Marian Gaborik (12G-14A) had six points in his first five games with Columbus, including a goal and an assist in his first game with the team at Bridgestone Arena back on April 4th. Since then he has just one point in six games.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

(16-22-9, 5th in Central)

The Nashville Predators have won just one of their last 16 games on the road, and only one of their last 10 games overall (the worst record in the league over that span). They’re currently in position for the fourth pick in this summer’s draft, though depending on tonight’s results they could pick anywhere from second to sixth.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Nashville Predators

The future of the Nashville Predators’ top line will play his fifth NHL game tonight. (PHOTO: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)

Players to watch

Filip Forsberg has been called back up from Milwaukee for the final game of the season. That will give him five games total with the Preds this season, which avoids burning up a year of his entry-level contract. He finally broke through with an assist on a David Legwand goal earlier this week, the first of what promises to be many more NHL points for the young Swede.

Matt Halischuk is injured and won’t be playing tonight, but there’s still one other pending Preds RFA who’s playing for next season. Bobby Butler (4G-7A) has nine points in his 19 games with the team, including two goals and two assist in his last four games. He’s played like the prototypical Predator lately, and this is his last chance to show what he’s got against NHL competition before his contract expires.

Bottom line

A win tonight would give the Columbus Blue Jackets their best chance at making the playoffs, which means they’ll need Sergei Bobrovsky to be in full Vezina mode. As for the Nashville Predators, they’re still in training camp mode themselves so the chances of them playing spoiler are small. I don’t know if it’ll help them make the post-season, but I expect a Columbus victory in this final game of the year.

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Tags: Columbus Blue Jackets Nashville Predators

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