Predators-Blue Jackets Preview
The Predators nearly always enjoyed the upper hand until Sergei Bobrovsky joined the Blue Jackets.
Bobrovsky became the first Columbus goalie to defeat Nashville four times in a season in 2012-13 and will likely start in Wednesday night's matchup at Nationwide Arena.
Nashville (12-10-2) entered the league in 1998 and Columbus (9-12-3) joined the Central Division two seasons later. These franchises have enjoyed vastly different fortunes, with the Predators making seven playoff appearances while the Blue Jackets were swept in their lone showing.
That disparity of success has been evident in their matchups, with Nashville going 50-17-6 with one tie all-time.
At least the Blue Jackets, now in the Metropolitan Division, will always have the memory of going 4-1-0 against the Predators in their final season as division rivals. Bobrovsky started all of those games and posted a 2.59 goals-against average in a tight series in which every game was decided by one or two goals.
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner matched up four times with Pekka Rinne, who is out for Nashville with a hip injury. Rookie Marek Mazanec, who owns a 1.61 GAA during the Predators' 4-1-0 stretch, has started the last seven games and would face the Blue Jackets for the first time.
Columbus is already without injured stars Marian Gaborik and Nathan Horton. Jared Boll is on injured reserve while Derek MacKenzie, Brandon Dubinsky and Nikita Nikitin are all doubtful to play Wednesday.
In addition, Artem Anisimov left Monday's 6-0 win in Toronto and didn't return after a hit to the head.
Nashville winger Patric Hornqvist's status is uncertain after he sat out Monday's 4-2 win over Phoenix with an upper-body injury.
Bobrovsky made 18 saves for his fifth career NHL shutout Monday as the Blue Jackets capped a 3-2-0 trip with the largest shutout win in franchise history.
"We know that it's a big week," winger Nick Foligno said. "We wanted to come off this road trip feeling good and we definitely did that and now it's a matter of making sure we get our rest and getting ready for a great Nashville team. They're playing well right now."
The Predators raced to a three-goal lead after one period against the Coyotes, improving to 8-0-1 when leading after 20 minutes. Nine different skaters accounted for a point in Nashville's first three goals.
Coach Barry Trotz feels his team is coming together now that defenseman Roman Josi is playing better. Josi missed 10 games in October due to a concussion.
"He's playing like Roman Josi right now," Trotz said. "And when Roman's playing like Roman Josi, I think you see that we're a better hockey team."
The Predators have gone five straight games without yielding a power-play goal, killing off 12 penalties.