Blue Jackets-Predators Preview
Columbus is in the midst of its most successful road stretch in franchise history. Whether the momentum it's generated from that run will be enough to win in Nashville for the first time in almost five years remains to be seen.
The surging Blue Jackets look for a seventh consecutive victory away from home Sunday while trying to avoid a 16th straight road defeat to the Predators, who hope to snap a four-game skid when the teams meet for the second time in six days.
Though Columbus (31-23-6) is 0-10-5 in Nashville since winning 3-1 there April 3, 2006, it should have plenty of confidence to open a five-game trip against the struggling Predators.
The Blue Jackets, 8-1-1 since returning from the All-Star break with a 7-4 loss to Chicago, are 12th in the Western Conference, but only three points out of the eighth and final spot.
"We need to keep playing hard, like we have been,'' first-year coach Scott Arniel said. "We've got to be at our best. Every time we put on our jerseys, there's always something on the line.''
Nashville (31-23-8), meanwhile, was fifth in the West before Tuesday's 4-0 loss at Columbus. After losing that contest, then falling 3-0 at Chicago on Thursday and 3-2 in Dallas on Saturday, the Predators are 10th - two points ahead of the Blue Jackets and one behind eighth-place Calgary.
Though Nashville has recorded four goals and been shut out twice during its four-game skid, it has averaged 3.7 goals during the lengthy home winning streak against the Blue Jackets. The Predators won 4-1 in the teams' only previous meeting in Nashville this season Jan. 2.
In order to continue that success, the Predators likely must get the best of Steve Mason, who has shut them out twice in 2010-11. He stopped 20 shots versus Nashville on Tuesday.
Though Mason has a 1.76 goals-against average while winning seven of eight overall, he is 0-2-3 with a 3.10 GAA at Nashville.
Mason made 25 saves and rookie Matt Calvert recorded his first career hat trick and added an assist as the Blue Jackets overcame an early two-goal deficit to beat Phoenix 5-3 on Friday.
"Like we've been doing the last month and a half, we responded well,'' said forward R.J. Umberger, who had a goal and two assists.
A fifth-round pick in the '08 draft, Calvert has scored six of his nine goals the last five games. That included a power-play score against the Predators this week.
"He's done lots of good things and is certainly making the most of his opportunities,'' Arniel said.
Veteran defenseman Craig Rivet is expected to make his Columbus debut a day after he was claimed off waivers from Buffalo. The 36-year-old Rivet had one goal and two assists in 23 games with Buffalo this season, but the former Sabres captain is expected to provide a veteran presence.
All-Star Rick Nash has five goals with five assists in six games, but only one of each his last four at Nashville.
Legwand has four goals and nine assists his last 11 home games versus Columbus.