The Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets are struggling squads coming off much-needed one-goal wins against the same opponent. But they haven't had much in common when playing each other the last two seasons.
The Predators will be looking for their 11th straight win over their Central Division rivals on Sunday night in Columbus.
Since the beginning of last season, the Predators (15-16-2) have won all 10 meetings with the Blue Jackets (15-13-6), outscoring them 36-16 and holding them to one goal or less six times. Nashville also has scored four or more goals in seven of the games, including a home-and-home series sweep Nov. 10-12.
Martin Erat had two goals and two assists in the most recent meeting, a 4-1 Predators win. He has a point in eight of the 10 games of the streak, totaling four goals and eight assists over the stretch.
Jason Arnott had a hat trick and an assist in Nashville's last game, a 4-3 win over Los Angeles on Saturday that snapped a five-game losing streak for the last-place Predators. It was Arnott's first hat trick since November 2005, and first multi-goal game since his season debut.
His effort also revitalized a Nashville offense that had scored two or fewer goals in each game during its skid.
"It's nice to get the hat trick, but the win is even bigger," Arnott said. "If we would have lost, it would have been pretty devastating."
After trading goalie Tomas Vokoun to Florida in the offseason, Nashville has had problems in net. Backup Dan Ellis has earned the decision in the last three games, as starter Chris Mason was pulled early in a 5-2 loss to Chicago Wednesday after failing to stop the two shots he faced.
Mason has a 3.12 goals-against average this season, worst among goalies with at least 20 starts.
Ellis made 34 saves against the Kings, ending a personal four-game losing streak. Ellis had won his first six starts, and has a 2.45 GAA this season.
But he's never faced Columbus, which has had its own problems scoring recently. The Blue Jackets have just three total goals in their last three games, though they beat the Kings 2-1 on Friday to avoid their third straight loss.
"We got some dirty, nasty goals, which is the way we have to do it to score," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said.
Nikolai Zherdev had a goal and an assist for Columbus, but leading scorer Rick Nash has gone a career-high six games without a point. Nash has 18 goals and 13 assists this season, but has no points since scoring two goals against Colorado Dec. 5.
Nash has also gone six straight games without a point against the Predators.
Backup goalie Fredrik Norrena had 33 saves for Columbus against the Kings, playing in place of starter Pascal Leclaire. Norrena has won four of his five decisions in December, with a 1.61 GAA over that span, while Leclaire has lost or been pulled from his last six games.
Nashville will be looking to snap a four-game road losing streak.