Originally written on Fang Faction  |  Last updated 3/18/13
It's rough days for the Nashville Predators as they are slowly distancing themselves from the playoff race. They went 0-3 in the West coast, with Rinne getting chased twice. The Preds actually managed to score 9 goals in the three game trip, (0.8 more goals/game than their season average), but they let allowed 16 goals against, which, of course, just isn't good. Nashville has been, at best, flaky. They have won three of their last ten, but two of those wins were shutouts where they put in a combined 10 goals.  Tonight they face the Columbus Blue Jackets and unbelievably hot goaltender Sergei Bobvrosky, who has found himself amongst the NHL 3 stars in consecutive weeks. The Predators and Blue Jackets are currently tied in the standings, with absolutely identical records, but hopefully Columbus's league worst 2.1 Goals per game will  be enough to knock some sense into the wayward Predators. TV/Radio Coverage Nashville: Fox Sports Tennessee and 102.5 The Game Columbus: TV: FOX SPORTS OHIO (HD) | RADIO: 97.1 FM Season Series Saturday January 19th - CBJ 3 - 2 NSH (SO) Line Up News Starting Goaltenders: Name W L OT GAA SV% #35 Pekka Rinne 10 9 5 2.24 .914 #72 Sergei Bobrovsky 9 6 5 2.00 .932 Projected Nashville Scratches: #17 C Chris Mueller, #28 C Paul Gaustad (upper body), #74 Sergei Kostitsyn (Healthy) #27 W Patrick Hornqvist (IR; upper body), #33 C Colin Wilson (IR; upper body) and #75 D Hal Gill  Projected Columbus Scratches: #43 C Sean Collins, #33 D Adrian Aucoin, #24 C Derek MacKenzie (Upper Body) Projected Lines Nashville #57 Gabriel Bourque #12 Mike Fisher #10 Martin Erat #13 Nick Spaling #15 Craig Smith #24 Matt Halischuk #23 Zack Boychuk #11 David Legwand #19 Bobby Butler #16 Rich Clune   #18 Brandon Yip #6 Shea Weber #59 Roman Josi #8 Kevin Klein #64 Victor Bartley #4 Ryan Ellis #22 Scott Hannan #7 Jonathan Blum   #35 Pekka Rinne #30 Chris Mason Columbus #18 R.J. Umberger #19 Ryan Johansen #71 Nick Foligno #11 Nick Calvert #17 Brandon Dubinsky #13 Cam Atkinson #22 Vinny Prospal #16 Derick Brassard #10 Mark Letestu #9 Colton Gillies #42 Artem Anisimov #40 Jared Boll #7 Jack Johnson #51 Fedor Tyutin #20 Tim Erixon #6 Nikita Nikitin #4 John Moore #47 Daulton Prout     #72 Sergei Bobrovsky #1 Steve Mason Thoughts on Both Teams Predators: A couple more bad games and the Preds can just about kiss their playoff chances good bye. They are at 28 points, currently tied with Columbus (in games played and points), making this game even bigger., and sitting outside the top 8 in the west. Even though the standings are very tight, the shorten season turns a small cold streak into a deal breaker.  Barry Trotz is sitting Kostitsyn tonight after his atrocious, lackluster effort against Calgary, specifically on their game winning goal. But in reality, Trotz could be benching most of his go to players. The Predators effort and performance out of their top players has been abysmal. Martin Erat and Kostitsyn are the two biggest culprits, but Legwand and Fisher haven't been much better.  Rinne had a good game against Edmonton, which will do his ego some benefits after being chased by Vancouver and Calgary. He will need to be at his best against the hottest goalie in the league right now.  Lastly, the defensive unit will need to glue back together. Bartley is playing very well in his first taste of the NHL. Weber and Josi are playing ... sufficiently well on the top pairing (comparatively at least). Hannan has had a nightmare road trip, while Blum and Ellis aren't at their best. This is the Preds last road game before returning home for four straight.   Blue Jackets: This is a match up of polar-opposite streaks. While the Predators have been sliding out of the standings, the Blue Jackets have found an extra gear; one that has been missing over the last few seasons. They had oe five in a row, a streak that started after taken the then unbeaten-in-regulation Chicago Blackhawks to overtime. Speaking about unbeaten in regulation, the Blue Jackets are just that over the last ten games. They are 6-0-4 in their last ten fixtures which, granted, only included 2 away games. The Blue Jackets also have the services of Sergei Bobrovsky who is hotter than a Kettle at a British midday party. The goaltender has allowed one goal or less in 6 of the last 9 games and has been in the NHL 3 stars in consecutive weeks: a first for a Blue Jacket. Scoring can come from all three lines with the Jackets, which means that all of the Preds pairings will need to be on their best behaviour to keep all the threats at bay. Of course, as always, a little backchecking from the forwards is always welcome  Calgary Flames Players to Watch: Name GP G A #22 Vinny Prospal 29 9 6 #16 Derick Brassard 27 4 11 #51 Fedor Tyutin 29 1 13 Who scores the first goal of the game for Predators? Win a Preds player t-shirt, info here.
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