Predators-Blue Jackets Preview

After a stellar road trip that was historic in nature, Rick Nash
and the Columbus Blue Jackets are back home to face a team that has
been their nemesis.

The Blue Jackets look to notch their first four-game win streak
in two seasons Monday night when they take on the Central Division
rival Nashville Predators.

Columbus (12-6-0) swept all three games on a California road
trip for the first time, culminating Saturday with a 3-0 win over
San Jose, their first-ever victory there in regulation. The Blue
Jackets also ended Los Angeles’ 8-0-0 home start with a 5-3 victory
Wednesday and snapped Anaheim’s five-game home win streak with a
4-3 win Friday.

Nash had a hat trick Saturday for the first time since March 7,
2009. He has scored in five straight games, with eight goals in
that span, and has 12 points during an eight-game streak.

“I’m a streaky player,” Nash said. “Early on, I couldn’t bury
them. To come into one of the toughest buildings in the league and
get two points is huge.”

The Blue Jackets captain earned his hat trick despite a groin
injury that made him a game-time decision.

“He was sore after (Friday) night, but he took care of it today
and got himself into the game,” coach Scott Arniel said. “That’s
the kind of leader he is.”

Nash was held in check last season against Nashville (9-6-3),
totaling one goal and two assists as the Blue Jackets went 1-1-4.
Columbus is 10-27-7 in its last 44 games against the franchise that
entered the NHL two seasons before the Blue Jackets came aboard in

One problem for Columbus has been solving Pekka Rinne, who is
5-2-0 with a 2.67 goals-against average in eight career starts
against the Blue Jackets.

Rinne has helped Nashville win two straight after losing the
opener of its four-game road trip. Rinne made 30 saves for his
second shutout in Thursday’s 3-0 win over Montreal, and added 22
saves in a 2-1 shootout victory over Carolina on Saturday.

Nashville has won four of five overall, with three of the wins
coming in shootouts.

“Whatever it takes,” coach Barry Trotz said.

The surge follows a five-game losing streak, when each game
ended in regulation. The Predators allowed 21 goals in those games,
compared to 11 in their last five.

“It wasn’t one thing,” Trotz said. “We got away a little bit
from the defensive game we like to play, and the puck was getting
in the back of our net. We weren’t playing that poorly. Sometimes,
teams go through that. They were working hard, but it was not
coming easy.”

The Blue Jackets will try to slow down Martin Erat, who had four
goals and one assist in the 2009-10 season series. Erat has two
points in six road games this season.

It’s unclear who the Blue Jackets will start in goal. Steve
Mason started four straight games and made 47 saves in Friday’s
game against Anaheim before Mathieu Garon made 35 saves Saturday.
Mason is 3-2-3 with a 2.55 GAA in eight career starts against
Nashville while Garon is 2-6-2 with a 3.66 GAA.

Columbus last won four straight March 7-13, 2009.