GAME DAY: Nashville
Playoff hopes still hang in the balance as Columbus faces another must-win
BLUE JACKETS (23-17-7) VS. PREDATORS (16-22-9)
7 P.M. SATURDAY
NATIONWIDE ARENA | COLUMBUS, OH
So, it all comes down to this.
- Read: Game Day Blog
- View: CBJ Playoff Race
- At NWA: Fan Appreciation Night
- Read: Resiliency key for CBJ
- Students: CBJ Student Rush tickets
- Read: Atkinson re-signed
- Read: Big day for Calvert
- Draft: Pre Draft rankings released
- This Weekend: Open House
- Watch: Get to know Cam Atkinson
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After a frantic sprint of 47 games in the last 97 days, the Blue Jackets have one more opportunity to give themselves the best chance at a Stanley Cup playoff berth. Though they will require some assistance from either of Minnesota's final two regular season opponents (Edmonton and Colorado) or the Dallas Stars, the first item on the agenda is taking care of business one final time when they face Nashville at Nationwide Arena.
Tied in points (53) with the Wild and sitting one back of the Red Wings entering the final day of play in the Western Conference, getting two points of their own is the No. 1 priority for the Blue Jackets, who have become quite the story around the NHL by getting into playoff contention after a 5-12-2 start to the season. On Mar. 1, the Blue Jackets were sitting at the bottom of the conference and fighting frustration over losing a bevy of one-goal games, but they quickly turned the page and started this remarkable run to make Saturday entertaining.
A regulation victory for the Blue Jackets - if they can attain it - will be only the first in a series of dramatic moments around the organization and its fan community. Dallas and Detroit square off at American Airlines Center at the same time Columbus gets started with Nashville, and the Wild also have to close out their regular season on the road against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Blue Jackets have had to get their work done on the road in order to stay in the race, and their win in Dallas secured a 5-1-0 road trip that started two weeks ago in Minnesota and ended Thursday night in north Texas. As has been the case all season long, Columbus received contributions from all four lines and got goals from its most consistent offensive performers, namely Mark Letestu and Vinny Prospal who led the way on the scoresheet.
If the magical ride they've been on is to continue, they will need one more clutch performance on Saturday to improve their odds of reaching the postseason.
- This is (obviously) the final meeting of the season between the two teams. The Blue Jackets won the most recent match-up at Bridgestone Arena on Apr. 4 (a 3-1 victory) as well as the last at Nationwide Arena on Mar. 19.
- The Predators had a rough go-around in their last outing, which was a 5-2 loss to the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. Nashville grabbed two early leads in the first period but could not hold on against a Detroit club that is fighting for its playoff life.
- It's not yet known whether Artem Anisimov (upper body) will be able to return to the Blue Jackets lineup on Saturday. He has been skating on his own the past few days but has yet to rejoin the club for a full practice.
- The goaltending match-up is scheduled to be Bobrovsky vs. Chris Mason.
At the game
BLUE JACKETS FAN APPRECIATION NIGHT: tonight's festivities, presented by FOX Sports Ohio, include pre-game activities on Front Street Plaza starting at 5 p.m. and poster giveaway for all fans. CLICK HERE FOR MORE
CBJ Student Rush: There will be no tickets available on-line for Saturday's game vs. Nashville. Rush tickets go on sale at the Big Lots Box Office. CLICK HERE FOR MORE
LEFT WING | #15
2012-13 STATS: 4-8-12, 43 GP
Smith was one of two Predators to get on the scoreboard in their last outing in Detroit, and the Wisconsin product welcomed the sight as he's struggled offensively in his sophomore NHL season. He has company in that department with this Nashville club, but coming off a 14-goal rookie campaign, it's safe to say both Smith and the Predators expected better this year. But he has shown the abilty to score goals with a very good wrist shot and offensive instincts, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see a better season from Smith in 2013-14.
COLUMBUS: Artem Anisimov (upper body), questionable; Nikita Nikitin (lower body), out