Predators win again but might lose Arnott to head injury

Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 10:41pm
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Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne notched his second consecutive shutout Saturday night. / Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

The Nashville Predators won another game but might have lost a player.

Jason Arnott sustained a head injury with 7:35 to play in the third period of Saturday’s 1-0 overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. It was the Predators’ fifth straight victory and moved them from seventh into fifth place in the Western Conference standings, pending the outcome of the Los Angeles Kings’ game later in the evening.

The severity of Arnott’s injury was not immediately known, but it was enough that the captain did not accompany the team on its post-game charter flight to St. Louis, where it will face the Blues, 5 p.m. Sunday (Fox Sports-Tennessee).

He will be evaluated Sunday morning and, if all is well, will join the team in time for its fourth game in six days.

“(A concussion) obviously is a concern anytime you hit the deck like that and get hit in the head,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It is a concern, but at the same time (based on) the first indication, I’m not really concerned right now. I think he should be fine.”

Arnott needed stitches to the left side of his head but was walking on his own outside the locker room shortly after defenseman Cody Franson ended the contest 1:54 into overtime, much to the delight of the 16,363 at Bridgestone Arena.

Franson scored on his only shot of the night, a wrister from the right point that went in off Blue Jackets’ goalie Steve Mason without the help of a redirection or even a screen. The assists went to Colin Wilson and Martin Erat – Arnott’s linemates, who played without him for the final minutes of regulation and operated as a forward unit during the four-on-four overtime.

“Anytime it gets on net you’re giving yourself a chance to score,” Franson said. “With it being overtime, it’s never a bad play to put it on net.”

Based on the play of both goalies up to that point, there was no reason to think anything was going to cross the goal line.

Before that one glanced off his arm and trickled in, Mason, the 2009 NHL rookie of the year, had stopped 30 shots, 24 of them in the final two periods.

“Steve Mason, for me, was fabulous,” Columbus coach Claude Noel said. “He saved us. We would never have gotten to where it was – he made some tremendous saves. … He’s disappointed, and we all are.”

Nashville’s Pekka Rinne was even better. He made 33 saves and notched his second straight shutout (his third in his last five appearances) and ran his streak without a goal allowed to 132:36.

He has stopped the last 57 shots he faced and 141 of 146 during the win streak.

“I’ve said before – it kind of goes hand in hand with your team,” Rinne said. “I think the team is playing really well defensively. Early on (Columbus) had some good chances but I think after that we kind of got it going and they didn’t get much.”

Another thing Columbus did not get was a penalty assessed on the play that injured Arnott. Samuel Pahlsson took out the feet of Nashville’s third-leading goal scorer from behind and caused him to fall. Arnott stayed on the ice for several seconds before he slowly made his way to the bench and was taken immediately to the locker room.

“Actually it was a slew foot, and I think he … hit his head on the boards and the ice,” Trotz said. “… It was a little bit of a dirty play.”

Now, it remains to be seen whether Arnott can play Sunday.

Briefly

• The victory was Nashville’s 41st of the season, which already is one more than in all of 2008-09 and tied for the third-highest single-season total in franchise history.

Ten games remain on the schedule.

• The Predators have won three straight at home, their best stretch at Bridgestone Arena since they won seven in a row in late October and early November.

• Erat extended his current point streak to four games. He has one goal and four assists over that stretch.

He also raised his team-leading point total to 47 (20 goals, 27 assists).