UPDATE: 11:35 AM CT — Gameday blog
With only five days of training camp under their belt, the Predators are as ready as they could be for tonight’s season opener at home against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“There’s a lot of nervous energy from the coaching staff to the players to trainers to management to fans,” head coach Barry Trotz said after the team’s morning skate. “We talk about managing emotions, managing all those types of things because we have to have purpose with what we’re doing.”
As Trotz said Friday, “We did as much to get them ready [as possible] in five days and we’re just going to have to keep improving off of that.”
Trotz has said multiple times in the last two weeks that goaltending is going to be of the upmost importance this season. He expects Pekka Rinne to be ready, physically and mentally, for tonight’s contest.
“I have a lot of faith in Pekka,” Trotz said. “He’s a pro and is one of the league’s top goaltenders year in and year out, and I expect him to get to that level shortly.”
Rinne confirmed he’s ready to go and is giddy to step on the ice three months after the NHL should’ve started.
“It’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to that and right now I’m focusing on the game.”
Tonight’s game comes against a Blue Jackets team that has a lot of new faces and start the season as the NHL’s youngest club.
“They’ve got good forwards, their defense is quite mobile and they got a new goaltender,” Trotz said. “They’re ready to start a new beginning without [Rick] Nash and starting something new in their own locker room.”
Puck-drop is slated for shortly after 7 p.m. central time as Rinne will face off against Sergei Bobrovsky for Columbus. The game has been sold out since early in the week.
7:00 PM CT – Columbus Blue Jackets @ Nashville Predators
TV: FS Tennessee
Radio: 102.5 The Game
Players to watch:
CBJ- Cam Atkinson
The pint-sized rookie, who had 14 points in 24 games in 2011-12, tallied 38 points in 33 AHL games during the lockout.
NSH- Roman Josi
All eyes will be on the 22-year-old defenseman in his first game playing next to two-time Norris Trophy finalist Shea Weber.
Projected starting goaltenders:
CBJ- Sergei Bobrovsky (2011-12 stats: 14-10-2, 3.02 GAA)
NSH- Pekka Rinne (2011-12 stats: 43-18-8, 2.39 GAA)
Projected depth charts:
|Columbus Blue Jackets|
|R.J. Umberger||Derick Brassard||Cam Atkinson|
|Brandon Dubinsky||Artem Anisimov||Derek Dorsett|
|Nick Foligno||Ryan Johansen||Vaclav Prospal|
|Matt Calvert||Derek MacKenzie||Jared Boll|
|Colton Gillies||Mark Letestu|
|Jack Johnson||James Wisniewski||Sergei Bobrovsky|
|Fedor Tyutin||Nikita Nikitin||Steve Mason|
|John Moore||Adrian Aucoin|
|Sergei Kostitsyn||Mike Fisher||Martin Erat|
|Craig Smith||David Legwand||Patric Hornqvist|
|Colin Wilson||Paul Gaustad||Matt Halischuk|
|Brian McGrattan||Nick Spaling||Brandon Yip|
|Roman Josi||Shea Weber||Pekka Rinne|
|Scott Hannan||Kevin Klein||Chris Mason|
|Hal Gill||Ryan Ellis|
|Victor Bartley||Jonathon Blum|
CBJ- Cam Atkinson (lower body, probable), Ryan Murray (shoulder, out)
NSH- Gabriel Bourque (lower body, out)
Keys to the game:
CBJ- Stay out of the box… The Predators have working relentlessly on the power play in practice and the unit ranked first in the NHL in 2011-12. To make matters worse, the Blue Jackets’ penalty kill was a shoddy 5-for-11 in three games in Nashville last season. Simple solution for Todd Richards’ club: stay out of the box.
NSH- Win the 50-minute game… It’s the season opener at home three months overdue, so naturally the Predators will come out of the gates flying tonight with a lot of pent-up energy. After that initial adrenaline subdues a bit, the Predators need to maintain focus and close the deal in the final two periods, which could be demanding physically.
Numbers to know:
- The Preds are 7-6-0 all-time in season openers, having won six of their last eight.
- The Preds are 7-5-1 all-time in home openers at Bridgestone Arena, but have won six of their last eight.
- 2011-12 season series vs. Columbus: 5-0-1 Predators
- Since the start of the 2006-07 season, the Preds are 31-5-3 against Columbus.
- The Preds were 26-10-5 at home last season … Columbus was 12-25-4 on the road.
- The home team has won 20 of the last 27 head-to-head meetings.
- The Preds were 16-5-3 vs. the Central Division last season … Columbus was 5-17-2.
- Pekka Rinne is 14-4-1 with a 2.45 GAA and .916 save percentage in 20 career games vs. Columbus. His counterpart, Sergei Bobrovsky, is 1-0-0 with a 2.01 GAA and .929 save percentage in 1 career game vs. Nashville.
- Martin Erat has 50 points in 54 career games vs. Columbus.
- Shea Weber has 30 points in 36 career games vs. Columbus.
- Since arriving in Nashville, Mike Fisher has 8 points in 8 games vs. Columbus.
- 2011-12 special teams: Nashville (1st PP, 10th PK) … Columbus (24th PP, 30th PK)