Paul McCann: Game Night in Smashville – Holiday Reunion

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If I told you in September that the hottest team in the NHL over Thanksgiving weekend would be the Nashville Predators and that the Columbus Blue Jackets would be behind Buffalo in the Eastern Conference basement, you would have asked me two questions; what have you been smoking… and … Do you have any more? That is the matchup tonight in Smashville as former Central Division rivals meet up for the first time this season.

These two franchises are inextricably linked as they joined the league in successive years and have a bit of a history from their growing up in the same division… but little brother moved away to the Eastern Conference and the rivalry has dimmed a bit… maybe absence really does make the heart grow fonder, at least until the puck drops. BUt it is fitting to welcome this team back over the holiday.

The Nashville Predators come in on a three game win streak and sporting a sparkling 9-1-1 home record inside the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena. This team is playing some outstanding 5 on 5 hockey and Pekka Rinne is back to being… well… Pekka Rinne. The Blue Jackets on the other hand? Yikes…

Injuries, injuries, injuries… it seems whenever you talk Columbus, you talk injuries. The team is coming into Smashville losing 14 of their last 16 and more than a few observers are saying that the Jackets have lost their identity as well. That was evident last night as Columbus laid a HUGE egg in front of their home crowd, dropping a 5-0 blowout to the Vancouver Canucks. Tonight doesn’t look much better for them, this is a team that has been outscored 35-13 in the third period this season… the Predators have been outstanding in the third.

Cautionary points for the Predators continue to be special teams. The Blue Jackets are converting at a 22.4% pace on the power play, the Preds PP has been horrendous at home, 1-37 so far this season. Also, the Predators need to take their Thanksgiving lesson seriously and come out strong tonight.

Still not sure who is in net for Columbus tonight, but since Bobrovsky started last night, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Curtis McElhinney between the pipes… Expect Pekka Rinne for the Predators looking to add to his league leading 15 wins. Game time is 7pm at Bridgestone Arena, limited tickets remain.

And here is your preview from NHL.com …

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Random Notes

– Mike Fisher’s return was successful against Edmonton, now getting him back into the special teams will be important.

– Tonight marks the first time Scott Hartnell comes back to Bridgestone Arena in CBJ colors.

– Tennessee coaching legend Pat Summit is being honored tonight and will be dropping the ceremonial first puck.

– David Legwand will play in his 1000th game tonight as the Senators are in Tampa.

– Edmonton managed to lose another one last night after having St. Louis on the ropes. There don’t seem to be any answers for the Oilers.

– Speaking of St. Louis… Martin Brodeur is trying to continue his career as a backup.

– Twelve games today – Flyers @ NYR, Caps @ Leafs, Sabres @ Habs, Sens @ Bolts, Devils @ NYI, Pens @ Canes, Jackets @ Preds, Blues @ Wild, Stars @ Avs, Flames @ Coyotes, Hawks @ Kings, Ducks @ Sharks.

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