Preview: Predators at Blue Jackets
The Nashville Predators have answered their worst stretch of the season with a six-game point streak and look to extend it when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. The Predators suffered through an 0-5-1 slump but have gotten some key performers back in the lineup to win five of their last six (5-0-1) after Filip Forsberg scored in overtime to beat Chicago 4-3 on Wednesday.
Forsberg, who returned from a 5 ½-week absence due to a hand injury on Monday, recorded two goals against the Blackhawks while Viktor Arvidsson tallied for the fifth time in seven games after missing 21 contests with a broken thumb. The Predators have won five straight meetings and seven of eight against the Blue Jackets, who suffered a 4-0 loss at NHL-best Tampa Bay on Tuesday despite holding a 15-2 advantage in shots during the second period. “We can’t just play 20 minutes, we have to find a way to put 40-50 minutes together of great hockey,” Columbus defenseman Seth Jones told reporters. “We’re not going to be perfect, but we have to find a way to keep that pressure sustained for more than a period.” The Blue Jackets are 11-8-2 at home as they begin a stretch during which they play four of five at Nationwide Arena and are expected to have Nick Foligno in the lineup after the captain missed four games to be with his daughter as she underwent heart surgery.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Tennessee (Nashville), FS Ohio (Columbus)
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (27-15-3): Defenseman Mattias Ekholm has been on quite a run, recording two goals and five assists while posting a plus-5 rating during a three-game streak that has pushed his season total to 32 points - three shy of his career high. Ryan Johansen set up a pair of goals on Wednesday and tops Nashville with 38 points while Forsberg took over the team lead in goals (16) despite missing 17 games. Pekka Rinne is 3-0-1 over the last four games after making 28 saves on Wednesday but could give way to backup Juuse Saros, who is 3-0-0 with two goals allowed in his last three starts.
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (24-15-3): Artemi Panarin saw his seven-game point streak end Tuesday, but the left wing leads the team with 45 - three more than Cam Atkinson, who has been kept off the scoresheet in three straight contests. Atkinson tops Columbus with 24 goals and Pierre-Luc Dubois is next with 16, but the team’s power play continues to struggle at 12.8 percent (30th) after going 0-for-24 over the last 11 games. Joonas Korpisalo is expected to start in net and No. 1 goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will not be with the team after an incident occurred following Tuesday's game in which GM Jarmo Kekalainen announced the Russian did not "meet certain expectations and values that we have established for our players that define our culture."
1. Blue Jackets C Brandon Dubinsky (lower body) and F Markus Hannikainen (upper body) were placed on injured reserve Thursday after leaving Tuesday's contest.
2. Nashville C Colton Sissons, who leads the team with a plus-22 rating, has matched his career high of nine goals after scoring in back-to-back contests.
3. Columbus D Zach Werenski is one goal away from reaching double digits for the third straight season to start his career.
PREDICTION: Predators 3, Blue Jackets 2