Predators play Blue Jackets in Central Division battle
PREDATORS (18-11-3) at BLUE JACKETS (14-12-6)
Nashville 5-3-2; Columbus 2-5-3
This is the third of six meetings between the Central Division rivals. The Predators earned a pair of 4-3 shootout victories against the Blue Jackets on Nov. 21 and Dec. 10, both at the Sommet Center.
December may be the month when we find out if the Predators are for real. After they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night, Barry Trotz's club will play six of its next seven games on the road.
Nashville showed some grit on Saturday night by fighting back from a 2-0 deficit, but Todd Bertuzzi's goal 24 seconds into overtime lifted the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-2 victory at the Sommet Center. After recording only five shots on goal in the first periods, the Preds peppered Chris Osgood with 30 over the final 40 minutes of regulation.
"We had trouble getting going for the first 30 minutes," Trotz said. "They were winning a lot more of the puck battles than we were early. They had urgency. We ended up looking at our net a lot. Pekka (Rinne) was good early. We started getting our game together in the second period. We fought back. I thought we were fine the rest of the game, but obviously not in overtime."
Columbus will be aiming to avoid a third straight loss on Monday after suffering a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena. Overall, the Blue Jackets have lost 10 of their last 12 games. Down 2-1, they had a chance to score the tying goal during a 5-on-3 advantage in the third, but came up empty.
"I don't even know that we got a quality look (at the net)," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We stumbled around. We had shots blocked and cross-ice passes picked off."
Predators forward Steve Sullivan has seven points (1 goal, 6 assists) in his last six games. … Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger
moved into a third-place tie for the club lead in goals when he notched his 10th tally of the season on Saturday night. Rick Nash
leads the club with 16 goals and 17 assists.
Nashville forward Jordin Tootoo was hit with a shot on Saturday and forced to leave the game. The Predators are expecting results from an MRI on Monday. … Blue Jackets defenseman Rostislav Klesla
(groin) is out six weeks, while forward Derek Dorsett
suffered a broken left hand on Saturday and is out indefinitely.
The Predators are 4-for-17 on the power play in the last four games after going 0-for-16 in the previous five contests. They're 13-1-1 when they score a power play goal.
"You're 30-odd games into the season and usually you have some separation, but there is virtually no separation from 1 to 15. No one is going to get a break this season." -- Trotz on the Western Conference playoff picture.