The Predators have only met with the Winnipeg Jets since escaping Atlanta and the name Thrashers, but that was in the preseason on September 24th (the Predators won). The Jets have done fairly well this season, having their fair share of wins and losses. Currently sitting in 10th in the Eastern Conference, Winnipeg is only 5 points away from taking the 9th spot from the Washington Capitals and only 7 points from stepping passed the Buffalo Sabres to take the 8th spot, making them playoff eligible.
The Predators have been struggling as of late, losing two straight games against Edmonton and Pittsburgh and getting surpassed by Detroit for the 4th spot in the Western Conference. With a trip to Chicago and St. Louis looming in the week ahead, the Predators needed the right foothold to get back in the game and Winnipeg looked to be that essential step.
Here are the highlights from last night’s game against the Jets:
- With Alexander Radulov back in the lineup, a certain popular player had to take the night off. Jordin Tootoo joined the long list of healthy scratches, including Colin Wilson, Jack Hillen, Brian McGrattan, Roman Josi, and Craig Smith. With as well as some players have been performing lately, even the popular guys have to take a night off every now and then. We don’t expect Toots to be benched for long.
- The 1st Period produced no goals, but both teams controlling the puck evenly. The Predators took 10 shots in the first, but Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec was able to keep Nashville back. On the same means, although only taking seven shots in the first period, Pekka Rinne was able to keep Winnipeg from taking the lead early.
- Nashville would finally get the best of Pavelec, with a beautiful pass from Alexander Radulov, Matt Halischuk sent a slapshot cleanly into the net at 2:56 of the 2nd Period. Radulov picked up his first assist of the season along with Kevin Klein (14th assist) on Halischuk’s 13th goal of the season.
- Speaking of Kevin Klein, he was able to make the save of the night, blocking the crease from what would have been a clean shot from Bryan Little. While Pekka was distracted by Andrew Ladd, Klein jumped in front of the net, blocking two shots from Little.
- Gabriel Bourque would seal his 5th goal of the season with a backhanded goal at 10:01. Nick Spaling (10th assist) and Andrei Kostitsyn (16th assist) picked up the assists on the rookie’s goal.
- Tim Stapleton would finally get Winnipeg on the board at 12:53 into the 3rd Period for his 11th goal of the season.
- Shea Weber would sink his 15th goal of the season at 19:50 with an empty-netter, with an assist from Mike Fisher (24th assist) on the power play.
- Nashville was able to out-shoot the Jets 28 to 25, with Pekka blocking all but one. Although Pekka Rinne has been a little iffy lately, allowing 12 goals in the last three games (definitely not a trait of the Finnish phenom). However, as many games as he plays, it was bound to happen eventually. Every game is played differently, so only tomorrow will tell his Pekka is getting back on his A-Game.
- Like Thursday night’s game against Pittsburgh, the Predators didn’t give the Jets many penalty chances. Only Martin Erat took a penalty at 12:52 in the 2nd Period for hooking call. The Predators were able to capitalize on one of Winnipeg’s four penalties.
In the two games he’s played so far, Alexander Radulov has gained two points (a goal against the Penguins, an assist against Winnipeg). The fans seemed appreciative to have the Russian phenom back on the team, with the old rendition of “Panama” changed to “Radulov” playing over the speakers. And, with no surprise, the Predators gained their 22nd sellout of the season, thanks to help of many Atlanta Thrashers fans. It was confusing to tell who exactly they were cheering for, for some cheered for the Jets and others threw their jerseys on the ice, sporting Predators attire underneath. Were the Thrashers fans finally coming to terms with the loss of their team? Who knows.
The Predators have no time to relax with a win under their belt, for they are in Chicago tonight to take on the Blackhawks, who are chomping at the bit to pass the Predators for 5th place in the conference. The Blackhawks are only two points away from tying the Preds, so both teams need to be sharp tonight. The Blackhawks may have the upper-hand, not only because they are at home, but because they have won the last five games. But hey, the Predators could end that streak tonight, and as fans, we sure hope they do.