Blue Jackets back in Nashville
The Predators go for their sixth straight win over the Columbus Blue Jackets when the division rivals meet Thursday at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
Nashville (32-12-3) leads the Central with 67 points, but saw that advantage reduced to just two points after a 5-3 loss to second-place Detroit on Wednesday. Dan Hamhuis' goal early in the second period gave Nashville a 3-2 lead, but the Predators allowed three unanswered goals in a 6:38 span later in the frame en route to the loss.
"I think we just gave them too much room to create in the second period," said Nashville right wing Steve Sullivan, who has 36 career points against Columbus - his second-most versus any opponent. "We were getting caught with our pants down, letting them get four players up the ice on every rush."
The defeat snapped a season-high six-game winning streak, which included two victories over the Blue Jackets. The Predators outscored Columbus 6-1 in a home-and-home series sweep Friday and Saturday and are 5-0 against the Blue Jackets this season.
Nashville has lost just two of the last 14 meetings at home against Columbus, and is trying to extend its current season-high winning streak there to five games. The Predators are 16-3-3 at the Gaylord Entertainment Center where they will meet Chicago on Saturday before the All-Star break.
Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun is 4-0-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average versus the Blue Jackets this season. He is 17-6-1 with a 2.26 GAA in 25 career games - six more wins than he has versus any opponent.
Vokoun has made four starts since returning from a thumb injury suffered Nov. 23, but was pulled Wednesday after allowing two goals on eight shots. Backup Chris Mason, who has won two of his three career starts versus Columbus, replaced him.
Paul Kariya, who leads the Predators with 49 points, has four goals and 13 assists in his last 11 meetings with Columbus.
Jason Chimera scored in overtime Tuesday to lift the Blue Jackets to a 5-4 win over Chicago and snap a four-game losing streak. Columbus (17-24-5) trailed by two goals midway through the second period, but rebounded to score three straight before allowing the tying goal with 1:33 to play.
"We needed to get something out of the hard work," said Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, whose team was outshot 12-2 in the final period and 28-18 for the game. "That was more important than the artistic part of it."
Despite the victory, Columbus has the second-fewest points in the Western Conference with 39, one more than Los Angeles. Blue Jackets center Sergei Fedorov scored in his first game back after missing three with an elbow injury while defenseman Adam Foote also was back in the lineup after being sidelined two games with a back injury.
Second-leading scorer Rick Nash remains day-to-day with a back injury that has caused him to miss five consecutive games.
-- Associated Press