Your Nashville Predators take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at 6:00 CST at Nationwide Arena. Let’s see how these teams stack up.
- Predators 12-10-2 (26 pts) 5th in the Central
- Blue Jackets 9-12-3 (21 pts) 7th in the Metropolitan
- Predators 4-1-0
- Blue Jackets 3-2-0
- Goals per game – Preds 2.3 (24th) – Blue Jackets 2.5 (18th)
- Goals against – Preds 2.8 (20th) – Blue Jackets 2.9 (23rd)
- Power Play % – Preds 21.1 (9th) – Blue Jackets 19.0 (15th)
- Penalty Kill % – Preds 83.5 (12th) – Blue Jackets 78.7 (23rd)
The Predators have been playing some of their best hockey of the season and it could not come at a better time. After struggling through the second half of the franchise-long seventeen day road trip, all it took was a night in their own beds to get recharged. The Preds have gone 4-1-0 since ending the trip and have outscored their opponents 15 to 8 over that period of games.
The Preds success has been based on a better and more consistent commitment to the defensive end. Improved structure in their own end has led to effective breakouts and allowed the forwards to use their speed with the puck through the neutral zone. This has created a number of scoring opportunities on the rush that the Preds were simply not generating earlier in the season. Increased puck possession has also led to more power play opportunities as opposing teams are being forced into penalties to slow the Preds. Over the last five games, the Preds have generated 17 power play opportunities and cashed in on 5 of them. Conversely, the Preds have only allowed 12 and have killed them all off.
It also doesn’t hurt that Marek Mazanec has settled down and seems comfortable in his new role as a number 1 NHL netminder. He has moved into the top half of the league in both goals against average and save percentage and passed Pekka Rinne in both categories.
The Blue Jackets are in the midst of a tough up-and-down stretch with a lot of their key players out of the lineup. Marion Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky, Nikita Nikitin, Nathan Horton, Derek MacKenzie, Jared Boll and Artem Anisimov are all out of the lineup with injuries. Columbus is already 18th in the league in goals for with an average of 2.54 per over 24 games. That adds up to 61 goals, 20 of which were scored by guys who are out with injuries.
Sergei Bobrovsky has also struggled with consistency for the Jackets. After putting up monster numbers last year, his play this season has been middle of the road. For a team like Columbus (and Nashville), they need above average goaltending to be successful. The last five games have been reflective of Bobrovsky and the Blue Jacket’s season. In the three wins, he has one shutout and allowed one goal in each of the other two games. In the two losses, he allowed six goals in one and was pulled in the other after allowing 4 goals midway through the second.
Prediction – Predators 4-2. David Legwand with an empty netter.