Thursday, January 19, 2012

Predators Return to the Scene of the Crime in Columbus

On December 8, 2011 a criminal act took place in front of 13,852 people at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus but no charges were filed.

Toward the end of the hockey game being held there that night, the Blue Jackets looked assured of a rare victory over the visiting Nashville Predators. Columbus had led the entire game was leading 3-1 with under two minutes left in the contest.

The beginning of the crime started with 96 seconds left in the game when Patric Hornqvist put a shot past Curtis Sanford. With 13 seconds left on the clock, Sergei Kostitsyn, with the Predators on the power play, scored a marker to send the the game to overtime.

The crime was finished off 1:45 into overtime when Colin Wilson put a wrister into the net to steal the 4-3 win for the visiting Preds in one of the most dramatic changes of events in team history.

The game was another oddity in the long domination that Nashville has had over Columbus in their eleven season divisional rivalry. The Predators have dominated the series 47-14-(4)-2 and are 29-5-3 since the 2006-7 season.

The Predators had won an amazing 17 games in a row against the Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena when the streak came to a grinding halt on November 19 of this season when Columbus beat Nashville 4-3 in overtime.

Once again, tonight, Columbus is ripe for the picking when the Predators hit the ice as they have won eight of their last ten and 14 of their last 19 games. Their 3-0 loss to the best team in the NHL, the New York Rangers on Tuesday, was not a 'bad" loss for the team.

With Ryan Suter injured and Pekka Rinne taking the night off, it was like playing a top team with one hand tied behind their back. There is little reason to believe that the Predators should not pick up where they left off and start a new win streak in spite of the continuing absence of Suter.

Columbus has had nothing go their way this season. Entering the year, they had high hopes with free agent acquisitions Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski, and Vinny Prospal ready to bolster their line-up and hopefully send them to the playoffs. The downside of the signings is that they have almost no cap space remaining to shore up problems.

Before the season started Wisniewski was suspended for ten games and ex-Pred Mark Dekanich, who was set to back up Steve Mason in net, was injured and is yet to play his first game as a Jacket.

Most folks will point to Steve Mason as being the root of the problem in Columbus. In 2008-09 Mason led the team to the playoffs and won the Calder Trophy and went 33-20-7 with 10 shutouts. The Jackets extended his contract at almost $3 million a year through 2013 expecting more of the same.

What they have gotten is a not ready for NHL player who has hit rock bottom this season going 5-16-2, 3.46, .882. Curtis Sanford (8-10-3, 2.54, .912) has been the only thing that has kept the team from being even worse.

Columbus has the worst record in hockey with only 31 points, six less than the Anaheim Ducks. The team stuck with coach Scott Arneil until he was fired on January 9 and replaced with interim coach, Todd Richards. The team is 2-2 under Richards and can do nothing but improve on the season's dismal first half.

You really have to feel bad for the Columbus faithful who have waited for eleven seasons for things to get better to only find the worst team in franchise history with little hope indicate that things are better on the horizon.

Pekke Rinne (24-11-4, 2.50, .922) is expected to be back in net for tonight's 6:30 p.m. puck drop. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Tennessee and can be heard on the Predators Radio Network. The team will return to Nashville after the game to prepare for Saturday's match with the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena.

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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