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At the Rink: Predators at Blue Jackets

by Craig Merz

COLUMBUS -- Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will be the only change in the Columbus Blue Jackets lineup Friday after a 3-0 loss at the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, but coach John Tortorella is hoping for a different approach against the Nashville Predators (7 p.m. ET; FS-TN, FS-O).

"The biggest thing we need to improve tonight is more energy," he said. "We started well. The first eight, 10 minutes we looked really sharp, had some chances to score some goals, didn't. Then we flat-lined in the second period, maybe playing at the level they were playing at.

"It's not X's and O's. It's energy."

Backup Curtis McElhinney stopped 26 of 28 shots against the Senators, but Bobrovsky is playing better after a slow start. He is 5-1-0 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in his past six games.

Tortorella said he is concerned about Columbus containing a Nashville defense that has 52 points this season.

"A lot of their stuff is generated from the back end," he said. "They have a really good back end. We want them to play defense. It's not so much about them. It's us and our forechecking."

Nashville is 3-1-1 in the past five games. Ottawa ended Columbus' three-game winning streak.

"We're fortunate we've got some good puck-skating defensemen and with their head up they can make good plays, or carry the pucks themselves when they have to into the offensive zone," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.

"Anytime your defensemen can activate in the offensive zone on cycles and down the wall or down the middle, in zone plays, it presents a different set of challenges. The coverage becomes less simple. It creates more holes not only for them but for others."

Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who has three goals and eight points, said Laviolette encourages his involvement in the attack.

"It's who we are and how we want to play, to join the rush and try to create offense," Ekholm said. "When the numbers stack up it gives the whole 'D' corps confidence. You can see our style of play gets us results. They've got to respect our shot at first, then if something opens up we usually can get our heads up and make a play."

Laviolette coached Bobrovsky with the Philadelphia Flyers and sees him retuning to form.

"He seems to have his game back," Laviolette said. "He's a real good goaltender, having worked with him before. I know him and I know he's capable of big games and big stretches."

Here are the probable lineups:


Filip ForsbergMike RibeiroCraig Smith

Colin WilsonMike FisherJames Neal

Miikka SalomakiCalle JarnkrokCody Hodgson

Gabriel BourqueColton SissonsAustin Watson

Roman JosiShea Weber

Mattias EkholmRyan Ellis

Barret JackmanSeth Jones

Carter Hutton

Pekka Rinne

Injured: Eric Nystrom (upper body), Paul Gaustad (lower body)

Scratched: Victor Bartley, Anthony Bitetto


Boone JennerRyan JohansenBrandon Saad

Scott HartnellNick FolignoCam Atkinson

Matt CalvertWilliam KarlssonRene Bourque

Kerby RychelGregory CampbellJosh Anderson

Jack JohnsonDavid Savard

Ryan MurrayCody Goloubef

Kevin ConnautonFedor Tyutin

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Injured: Brandon Dubinsky (elbow), David Clarkson (back), Jared Boll (foot), Alexander Wennberg (lower body)

Scratched: Dalton Prout

Status report: Hutton (1-1-0, 3.44 GAA, .899 goals against average) may get the start with the Predators playing Saturday at the Minnesota Wild. … Forward Michael Chaput, recalled to the Blue Jackets on Wednesday from Lake Erie of the American Hockey League, was sent down Friday without playing a game. Prout has not played in three straight and five of six.

Who's hot: Neal and Ekholm each have five points (two goals, three assists) in four games. … Saad had a three-game goal streak stopped by the Senators and now has four goals in the past four games. … Nashville is 12-for-12 on the penalty kill the past three games.

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