The Columbus Blue Jackets are down three defensemen as they get ready to face a Nashville Predators team struggling to score during a three-game skid.
The Predators may like their chances of winning Saturday night if they start Pekka Rinne, who owns a stellar home record against the Blue Jackets.
Columbus (32-26-5) will be missing Fedor Tyutin, Ryan Murray and Nikita Nikitin. Tyutin was hurt playing for Russia in the Olympics and Murray will miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury.
The Blue Jackets were forced to recall defenseman Frederic St. Denis from the minors in the wake of Nikitin’s upper-body injury suffered in Thursday’s 6-1 loss to Chicago in the opener of a three-game trip.
"Unfortunately the blue line is getting hit with injuries right now and we’ve got to do our best to stay strong," defenseman Jack Johnson said. "Yes, they would help for sure but that’s life, we can’t sit there and say we would have done better if we had them because the season isn’t going to stop."
Nashville (26-27-10) may not be poised to take advantage since it has scored one goal in each game of its slide. The Predators were stymied by Ryan Miller as they fell 2-1 to St. Louis on Thursday.
"We had a couple of looks, and when we had those looks, we weren’t able to get it by Miller," coach Barry Trotz said. "So yeah, it’s a little bit frustrating because you’re playing well in a lot of areas of your game and not getting any points."
Rinne made 20 saves in his second straight start in his return to action after being out since Oct. 22 with a hip injury.
If Rinne gets another start Saturday, he will look to improve on an 11-1-2 mark and 2.30 goals-against average in 14 home starts against the Blue Jackets – a former Central Division rival for the Predators.
Columbus went 4-1-0 in the 2012-13 season series but turned in one of its worst performances of this season in a 4-0 home loss to the Predators on Nov. 27. The Blue Jackets have scored in all 38 games since.
Nashville is still adjusting to life without David Legwand, who was tied with Shea Weber for the team lead with 40 points before being traded Wednesday to Detroit for forwards Patrick Eaves, Calle Jarnkrok and a draft pick.
Eaves played 6:59 against the Blues in his Predators debut.
"He’s been in Detroit for a lot of time, maybe he can give us some winning mojo," Trotz said. "I know he’s a very detailed guy who has a tremendous work ethic who is very professional so you’re bringing in an element like that to a very young team."
The playoff-chasing Blue Jackets were outplayed the rest of the way Thursday after Ryan Johansen scored his team-leading 25th goal in the first period to tie the game.
"It’s frustrating because we didn’t play our game and who knows what these points, what difference they’ll make at the end of the season," Johansen said.
Artem Anisimov was held without a point after he totaled five goals and an assist over the first four games after the Olympic break.