With all of the drama surrounding the Columbus Blue Jackets, it’s easy to forget they face a Stanley Cup contender tonight.
The Nashville Predators come to town off of an overtime win in Chicago last night. It will be their third game in four days and they are walking into an arena to play a beaten up Columbus Blue Jackets team that was hit with quite the off ice story today.
Ahead of the game (and the Sergei Bobrovsky drama) I sat down with Corey Francis, the site expert over at PredLines.com. Thanks to Corey for his great insight and be sure to give him a follow on twitter.
Lansing Murphy (LM): How have the Predators been on the back end of back-to-backs this year
Columbus Blue Jackets
Corey Francis (CF): This is a very difficult question to answer, it’s because of when the back to back games occurred. The first series of back to back games didn’t happen until after Viktor Arvidsson went down. What is interesting is that each game in back to back series was decided by one goal.
During the first series of back to back games in November, the Predators lost the opening game in a shoot out and then faced the Coyotes, losing 2 to 1. The next series of back to back‘s came right before Christmas, and both in were one goal losses. At that time so many players were injured that they had a patchwork roster.
But now the roster is healthier and the team is performing well. Juuse Saros seems divided his ship and playing starter worthy in net. With Nashville, it is always interesting to see the first period of the second game. If they come out with good energy and attack the net, it could be a good night for them. However if you notice lapses on defense or struggles in the neutral zone, it will be a long night.
LM: The Preds have dealt with a rash of injuries but are almost back to full strength. Who stepped up and impressed over the last few weeks with Subban, Forsberg and Ardvisson all missing significant time?
CF: There are several players that have stepped up over the time the Nashville Predators suffered significant injuries. You can sit there and talk about any wind of several players.
However, the player that is really impressive most people is Rocco Grimaldi. Playing on Nashville’s fourth line, Grimaldi has a Corsi for a 59.7% and a Fenwik for of 61%. Anytime you get that type of production from lower lines is welcome. Grimaldi plays with a lot of energy and grit, and has helped the national defense shut down their opponents.
LM: What part of this Blue Jackets team scares you the most?
CF: Columbus is a very solid team, with some players that can score and one of the better goaltenders in the league. That being said, nothing really scares me about their team. That is not being disrespectful or dismissive of them. More times than not it is about how Nashville comes to play.
If they’re up for the game and play with energy, they’ll be fine to compete for the full 60 minutes. If they come out flat, they tend to lose and give up unnecessary goals.
LM: How do you see this game playing out?
CF: With the recent additions of Forsberg and Arvidsson, the Preds’ top line is finally back. Forsberg is playing like he never left, scoring two goals last night to in Chicago. It wasn’t a perfect game, but the Preds’ walked away with the win. And that is after they shut out Toronto.
The roster is healthier than it has been a long time. If they continue to play with energy and attacked the net like they have, the Predators should win this one. Before the injuries, the Pred‘s were likely the best team in the league.
Thanks again to Corey for sitting down and talking with me about what is sure to be an entertaining game tonight at Nationwide Arena.