PREDATORS (16-22-9) at BLUE JACKETS (23-17-7)
TV: Fox Sports Tennessee (Dish: 446/HD: 9516; Direct TV: 644/HD: 644-1 ; Comcast Nashville 1675; Comcast Chattanooga/Cleveland/Knoxville 401; Comcast Memphis 830; Charter Nashville 33/810; AT&T Nashville 724/1724)
Radio: Preds Radio Network Flagship - 102.5-FM The Game Radio Network; Network Affiliates
FISHER BACK IN ACTION
Forward Mike Fisher returned to the Predators lineup on Thursday night after missing nine of the previous 11 games with an upper-body injury. The Peterborough, Ont., native came out flying as he opened the scoring for Nashville just 1:46 into the contest. He then completed his fifth multi-point effort of the season with an assist on Craig Smith’s power-play goal later in the first. Nashville’s Alternate Captain has posted 11 points (6g-5a) in his last 11 outings to rank third on the team in points (10g-11a). Fisher also dished out a season-high five hits on the night.
WEBER STRONG ON THE BACK END
With his assist on Craig Smith’s power-play goal, Shea Weber has now posted assists (4a) in his last three outings; he leads the team in points (8g-19a-27pts). In addition to being tied for seventh among defensemen in goals, Nashville’s captain is tied for ninth in points, 12th in power-play points (3g-9a) and 13th in power-play goals among blueliners. He’s logged more than 25 minutes on 33 occasions, and led the team in ice time in 37 games. Weber is currently tied with Jason Arnott (107) for third on the franchise’s all-time goals list, while already ranking fourth in points (290) and fifth in assists (183). The Sicamous, B.C., native also has a franchise-best +43 rating and 49 power-play goals, while ranking second in overtime markers (5).
• Weber has 26 points (8g-18a) in his last 34 games.
• The back-to-back Norris Trophy runner-up ranks fourth in the League in total ice time (1,222:01), and sixth in average ice time (26:00).
• Weber leads the team and is tied with Montreal’s P.K. Subban for third among defensemen in shots (122).
• Weber ranks 17th at the position in hits (107) and 26th blocked shots (89) – he’s one of two blueliners (Dion Phaneuf) to rank among the Top 30 in points, hits and blocked shots while averaging more than 25:00 per game.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
With injuries to forwards Patric Hornqvist, Paul Gaustad, Colin Wilson, Brandon Yip, Taylor Beck, Matt Halischuk and Gabriel Bourque, Nashville has fielded a forward corps that has an average age of 26. Up front, the Predators have seven players with less than 130 games experience. Nashville’s three most veteran forwards – Legwand (893gp), Mike Fisher (811gp) and Sergei Kostitsyn (352gp) have combined for 2,056 career contests, the team’s other eight players up front have combined for 574 NHL games. With veterans sidelined due to injury, a combined 1,435 games of experience at forward are out of the lineup for Nashville.
LAST TIME OUT: Nashville 2 at Detroit 5
• Craig Smith tallied his first goal since Feb. 27 on the power play at 12:30 of the first period. It was Smith’s second power-play marker of the season. He also tallied an assist on the night for his second multi-point game of the season, giving him three points (1g-2a) in his last two games.
• Rich Clune tallied his first point in 12 games. He also dished out a game-high six hits, and ranks sixth in the League with 157 this season. Clune also recorded a minor penalty – he leads the team and ranks fifth in the League with 111 penalty minutes in 2012-13.
• Chris Mason made his fifth start of the season, stopping 33 of 38 shots on goal.
• The Preds have recorded power-play goals in back-to-back games for the first time since March 21-23. The power play went 1-for-5 against Detroit and 1-for-3 against Calgary (April 23).
• Nashville was assessed three minor penalties in the game. It is averaging the fifth-fewest penalty minutes per game this season (9.9) and only Minnesota has been shorthanded fewer times than Nashville (137).
• Kevin Klein has eight points (2g-6a) in his last 17 outings. Prior to the current streak, Klein had posted just one point (1a) in his previous 20 games.
• Bobby Butler has four points (2g-2a) in his last four games.
• Victor Bartley has posted four assists in his last six games, topping his output from the first 17 games of his career (3a).
• Pekka Rinne enters the final day of the regular season ranked second in games played (43), tied for first in shutouts (5), and fourth in minutes (2,443:46).
SAYING GOODBYE TO THE CENTRAL
The Predators and Blue Jackets face-off for the final time as Division rivals tonight after Nashville bid farewell to Detroit on Thursday. Coming into tonight’s matchup, the Predators have posted a 1-2-1 record against the Blue Jackets during the final season of the Central Division, and are 50-16-7 against Columbus all-time. David Legwand leads all Nashville skaters with 46 points (20g-26a) in 60 career games against the Jackets.
TONIGHT’S STORYLINES VS. COLUMBUS
The Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets wrap up the 2012-13 season against one another on Saturday at Nationwide Arena, the fourth meeting between the clubs this season. The last time these teams met on April 4, Columbus broke a 1-1 tie with two goals in the third period to win a game in regulation at Bridgestone Arena for the first time since April 3, 2006. Thirteen days earlier on March 23 in the Music City, Taylor Beck scored his first career goal and added an assist to earn first star honors in a 5-2 victory. The Blue Jackets claimed the first two meetings of the season – on March 19 in Columbus by a 4-3 score and on Opening Night (Jan. 19) in a shootout, 3-2. Nashville has gone three-for-six on the power play through the first four games of the season series.
Nashville has won in three of its last four trips to Columbus, and is 20-12-3 all-time at the Blue Jackets’ home rink.
Weber has 33 (9g-24a) in 40 career games against Columbus, his highest total against any team… David Legwand has 20 goals against Columbus, the second highest total by a player against a single team in club history… Mike Fisher has 10 points (8g-2a) in 12 games against the Blue Jackets since joining the Preds… Sergei Kostitsyn has amassed 12 points (5g-7a) in 17 career games against Columbus… Pekka Rinne is 15-6-2 with a pair of shutouts against Columbus all-time, while Chris Mason has a 16-4-2 career record with a 2.05 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS vs. COLUMBUS
Taylor Beck – Made his NHL debut at Columbus on March 19, 2013 and scored his first goal/recorded his first NHL assist against the Blue Jackets on March 23, 2013
Jonathon Blum – Made his NHL debut at Columbus on Feb. 22, 2011 and scored his first goal against the Blue Jackets on Feb. 27, 2011
David Legwand – Career-high nine shots on goal on Nov. 23, 2005 at Columbus
Chris Mueller – First career goal on March 19, 2013 at Columbus (Sergei Bobrovsky)
Craig Smith – Made his NHL debut and scored his first career goal at Columbus on Oct. 7, 2011.
Shea Weber – Career-high four points (1g-3a) on Oct. 18, 2008 vs. Columbus.
Brandon Yip – Made his NHL debut Dec. 19, 2009 vs. Columbus.
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