Blue Jackets in Nashville tonight to face Predators on FS Ohio HD
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
STATS Senior Writer
Martin Erat is on a roll for the Nashville Predators, and the Columbus Blue Jackets are all too aware of what the winger can do.
Erat will look to continue his hot streak Thursday night when the Predators try to defeat the Blue Jackets for the 13th straight time at Sommet Center.
Nashville (17-11-2) hasn't lost at home to Columbus (14-11-5) since April 3, 2006. The Blue Jackets are 4-19-3 with one tie in Nashville, falling 4-3 in a shootout Nov. 21.
Erat had a goal and an assist in that game, and has five of each during his last 11 home games against Columbus. He has a home point streak of five games (seven points) versus the Blue Jackets.
Judging by his recent play, it's a good bet Erat will extend that streak. He had his second career hat trick and an assist in a 4-2 victory over Vancouver on Tuesday.
After scoring once in his first 17 games, Erat has eight goals in his last 10. He's got eight points in a four-game streak.
"They didn't bounce for me at the beginning of the season, and I just tried to get myself together," Erat said. "I'm happy they are just going in right now."
The Predators are 13-1 when scoring at least once on the power play. Erat and Patric Hornqvist both converted Tuesday. Nashville has three power-play goals in its last two games after going 0 for 16 in the previous five.
"The Hornqvist goal was a really well executed play," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "The power play had some more looks today. They entered better, and then they executed better."
The Blue Jackets' long streak of road futility in the series is not the only hurdle they will have to overcome. Mathieu Garon, in his first season with Columbus, is 0-4-0 with a 4.08 goals-against average at Nashville and has posted a 4.43 GAA in losing five straight starts overall against the Predators.
Garon is expected to start Thursday one night after Steve Mason recorded his first shutout of the season with 32 saves in a 3-0 victory over Florida. Mason had 10 shutouts last season when he won the Calder Trophy.
"He gave us a chance tonight," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He and the defensemen played very well tonight and that's what we were looking for."
Mason is 2-1-2 with a 2.42 GAA in five career starts against Nashville but has a 3.99 GAA in 11 road starts this season.
Jason Chimera scored for the third straight game Wednesday as Columbus ended a three-game slide.
"We accomplished a lot the last two days in practice," Mason said. "Guys really put forth a great effort. It showed tonight. I thought we looked really sharp, and we stuck to the game plan. That was the biggest thing. A lot of credit goes out to the guys because we played one heck of a game tonight."
The Blue Jackets have dropped five straight (0-3-2) on the road.