Hockey is back, folks.
Tonight, the Blue Jackets are ready to rock and roll against the Nashville Predators after COVID-19 spread through the NHL and forced postponements. If you're looking for a positive from the break, look no further than the return of Patrik Laine and Adam Boqvist, who will both be back in the lineup tonight.
Here, you'll get everything you need to know – including keys to the game, where to watch and listen, and more – before the Blue Jackets return from their forced two-week hiatus against the Nashville Predators at Nationwide Arena tonight.
Where to watch, listen and stream tonight's game...
WHO: Blue Jackets (14-13-1) vs. Predators (19-11-1)
WHERE: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
WHEN: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: Bally Sports Columbus (Jeff Rimer, Jody Shelley)
RADIO: 97.1 FM (Bob McElligott, Dylan Tyrer)
STREAM: ESPN+ (out of market only)
The Predators have been flying high this season, and that can be attributed to the offensive contributions they're getting across the board. Perennial Norris Trophy candidate Roman Josi has been leading the way with ten goals and 19 assists in 30 games, but he's in COVID-19 protocol and won't suit up tonight. Colton Sissons and Thomas Novak are also in the protocol.
However, the Blue Jackets will still have to contend with dynamic forward Filip Forsberg. He's leading the team in goals with 14, four of which came against the Blue Jackets in the Predators' 6-0 win on November 30th. The Blue Jackets will also have to keep their eyes on Mikael Granlund (5-23-28), old friend Matt Duchene (13-12-25), another old friend in Ryan Johansen (8-16-24), and Tanner Jeannot (8-10-18).
While Laine and Boqvist are back, the Blue Jackets have also lost some key contributors. Eric Robinson, Joonas Korpisalo, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Gavin Bayreuther are all in COVID-19 protocol.
It'll be Elvis Merzlikins in net tonight for the Blue Jackets, while the Predators have yet to confirm their starter. Juuse Saros played last night in Washington and gave up four goals on 36 shots, so it'll likely be David Rittich for the Predators tonight.
ALL-TIME: To put it bluntly, the Predators have decimated the Blue Jackets over the course of their matchups. In franchise history, the Blue Jackets are 29-66-1 against the Predators. Over the last ten games, the Blue Jackets are 2-6-2 against Nashville, including the 6-0 drubbing earlier this year.
KEYS TO THE GAME
What do the Blue Jackets need to do to win tonight? We're glad you asked.
- Find Laine: The Blue Jackets' dynamite winger is back from an oblique strain, and he'll be looking to do some damage tonight. Before Laine was injured, he was playing some of the best hockey of his Blue Jackets career. If the Blue Jackets earn a power play (or two) tonight, the puck needs to find Laine's stick.
- Get In A Rhythm: After an unexpected two-week break, the Blue Jackets might be a bit disjointed to begin tonight's game. While the Predators will be tired from their game in Washington last night, they have an advantage in that they have played a game since the break. The Blue Jackets will need to connect on their passes and communicate effectively when exiting and entering the zone tonight against the Predators.
- Focus On The Kill: In the last four games before the postponements, the Blue Jackets surrendered four power-play goals in only ten short-handed situations. That needs to be an area of emphasis tonight as they try to break out of their two-game losing streak. Ideally, you don't want to take the penalties in the first place. When you do, you have to be organized, know where the passers and shooters are on the ice, and work together to kill it off.