The Columbus Blue Jackets have started to do the right things again. The Nashville Predators would like the backsliding to stop.
Playing their final game before going on an extended break, the Blue Jackets hope to continue their latest surge when they meet the struggling Predators on Sunday evening.
The Blue Jackets are looking for a split of the season series with their former division rival after losing 4-3 in Nashville on Jan. 26. Columbus has won four of its last five at home over the Predators.
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Columbus also goes for its fifth win in seven games after topping the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in overtime on Brandon Dubinsky’s game-winner on Friday. That moved the Blue Jackets one point behind the Penguins for second place in the Metropolitan Division and six points in back of the first-place Washington Capitals, who are visiting the New York Rangers Sunday afternoon.
After being blanked by the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 9, Columbus has taken three of four, including a pair of one-goal decisions.
“We’re starting to play the right way consistently,” Dubinsky told the Blue Jackets’ official website. “We talked about this all year. It’s a long season, and we went through a period where we weren’t playing our best hockey. I think we’re back to playing the way we want to and we’re getting results because of it.”
Dubinsky has two goals and three assists as part of a season-high four-game points streak. He’s also not the only one who’s been surging recently. Seth Jones has four assists while Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno have each scored twice in four games.
Cam Atkinson needs one goal to set a new career high, but he’s also faltered against the Predators with one goal in 12 career games. The sixth-year pro remains the team’s leader with 27 goals and 50 points.
In goal, Sergei Bobrovsky is 2-2-0 in his last four starts despite stopping 114 of 122 shots in that span for a .934 save percentage. In his last home start against Nashville in November 2015, Bobrovsky stopped 39 shots in a 4-0 victory.
Following this contest, the Blue Jackets won’t play again until Saturday when it wraps up a season-high seven-game homestand against the New York Islanders.
Nashville (27-22-8) is in the middle of a stretch of three games in four nights. The Predators returned from their bye week with their fourth loss in six games, 5-2 to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.
“It’s that time of the year where these points are important,” Nashville center Vernon Fiddler told the team’s official website. “If you get the two points, you have to put it in the bank and move on to the next one and get those two points. With the loss, you’ve got to do the same thing. You can’t lose two in a row, and we lost this one, but we’ve got to get back on the horse and get back at it tomorrow.”
Colin Wilson scored and assisted on P.K. Subban’s marker while Pekka Rinne stopped 28 of 32 shots.
“We’ll look at some stuff tomorrow morning, I’m sure, and things we can do better, but our guys, we competed hard,” Nashville center Ryan Johansen told the team’s website. That’s the main thing, so as long as we lace them up again tomorrow and have the same work ethic, hopefully a couple bounces will go our way and stay out of the box a little more, and we’ll be successful.”
This game marks the return of Johansen to Ohio’s capital after Nashville acquired him for Jones on Jan. 6, 2016.
In 99 games since the deal, Johansen leads the Preds with 74 points — one more than Filip Forsberg. This season, Johansen is Nashville’s top scorer with 40 points (nine goals, 31 assists).
Rinne, who has alternated losses and wins in his last seven starts, is 8-10-2 with a 2.71 goals-against average on the road. He is 5-7-0 in Columbus over his career.
Columbus is expected to have Scott Hartnell back in the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury. Hartnell, who played with Nashville from 2000 to 2007, has 13 goals and 17 assists 55 games but hasn’t had a point in his last six contests.