PREDATORS (12-11-4) at BLUE JACKETS (8-16-3)
TV: FS-TN, FS-O (HD)
Nashville 3-6-1; Columbus 5-3-2
This is the third of six meetings between the Central Division rivals. Columbus avenged a 3-2 loss on Oct. 7 by earning a 4-3 win against the Predators on Nov. 19 at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville is in the midst of a slump as it aims to avoid a third straight loss Thursday night. The Preds suffered back-to-back, 3-2 losses to Buffalo and Phoenix, respectively -- both on home ice. Now they travel to Columbus for one game before starting a four-game homestand Saturday night.
"Right now, teams look at our record and see we're not playing very well at home and maybe they're licking their chops to come in," captain Shea Weber
Not only has Nashville dropped back-to-back contests, but it has also lost six of its last eight games. The woes continued Tuesday night as Keith Yandle broke a 2-2 tie with just 1:45 left in regulation to lift the Coyotes to a 3-2 victory at Bridgestone Arena.
Things didn't exactly go well at the start of the game, either -- Taylor Pyatt put Nashville in 1-0 hole just 9 seconds into the game.
"We talked about having a good start, and eight seconds in, we get a tough bounce," coach Barry Trotz said. "That's their calling card when they score the first goal."
Things are finally starting to turn around a bit for Columbus. The Blue Jackets have earned points in seven of their last 10 games and are coming off an impressive 3-2 shootout victory at Montreal on Wednesday night. Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford
, who spent the last two seasons in the Canadiens' organization, turned aside David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Brian Gionta in the shootout to help his club leave the Bell Centre with two points.
"Yeah, it feels good to beat this team, but it always feels good to win in a building like this," Sanford said.
Thursday marks the beginning of a five-game homestand for the Blue Jackets, who realistically need to win at least four of them in order to get back into playoff contention. With 19 points, Columbus resides at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Preds center Craig Smith
has 5 points in his last three games. … Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash
has two shootout-winning goals in the last five days.
The Preds are expected to be without defenseman Francis Bouillon
(groin) and center Blake Geoffrion
(upper body). … Columbus will likely be missing Kristian Huselius
(lower body), Mark Dekanich
(groin) and Radek Martinek
The Predators haven't finished a season under .500 at home since 2000-01. They are 4-5-3 at Bridgestone Arena this season. … Huselius, who returned from a torn pectoral muscle only to injure himself again Tuesday night, has missed 68 of the Jackets' last 92 games.
"Nobody feels good about this right now. It's a tough stretch and it doesn't matter if you're playing well or not, we have to get points and we have to get wins." -- Preds defenseman Jack Hillen on the club's 2-6-0 stretch