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Blue Jackets back home to challenge Predators

by Brian Hunter

PREDATORS (12-10-2) at BLUE JACKETS (9-12-3)


Last 10: Nashville 5-5-0; Columbus 4-3-3

Season series: This is the first of two meetings between the Nashville Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who were Central Division rivals for years prior to realignment. The Predators owned the Blue Jackets for a long stretch -- but not last season, when Columbus swept the four-game series. Sergei Bobrovsky allowed seven goals in the four wins.

Big story: The Blue Jackets have taken their time getting accustomed to life in the Metropolitan Division, but they're only three points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff berth entering Wednesday. The Predators are five points ahead of them in the overall standings, but playing in the Western Conference leaves them six points short of the cutoff line.

Team Scope:

Predators: This is the lone road stop for Nashville in a stretch of seven games. The Predators return to Bridgestone Arena to begin a four-game homestand against the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.

Following a trying stretch that saw the Predators score just two goals while losing four straight road games, they've won four of five while scoring 17 times. A three-goal first period Monday against the Phoenix Coyotes and a 29-save effort from Marek Mazanec led Nashville to a 4-2 victory.

"I think that coming out early is a key to our success, especially at home," Nick Spaling, who opened the scoring, said in The Tennessean. "We have to take advantage of playing here. We've been on the road quite a bit lately, and it is nice to be home with all that energy and excitement."

Blue Jackets: It was a series of extreme highs and lows for Columbus on a just-concluded five-game road trip throughout Canada. The Blue Jackets lost 7-0 to the Edmonton Oilers and 6-2 to the Vancouver Canucks, but ended up coming home with three wins in five tries after a 6-0 rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.

Ryan Johansen punctuated the outburst with his seventh and eighth goals of the season, finishing off a three-point night. Bobrovsky needed just 18 saves to secure his first shutout this season and the fifth of his career.

"We've got to build now," Johansen told Fox Sports Ohio. "We had our ups and downs on this trip. We can take some good things and things that we can look at. I'm sure once we get back, we'll go over some stuff from the trip. A lot of positive stuff from tonight that we can look at, and that's what you want."

Who's hot: Gabriel Bourque has three goals and two assists in his past six games for the Predators. … Johansen, the No. 4 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, is one goal from matching his career high set in 67 games during his 2011-12 rookie season.

Injury report: Nashville forwards Patric Hornqvist (upper body) and Filip Forsberg (upper body) missed Monday's game. Goalie Pekka Rinne (hip) is on injured reserve. … Columbus saw defenseman Nikita Nikitin (lower body) leave Monday's game, as did forward Artem Anisimov (upper body) after a crushing hit by Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf. Anisimov said he was OK after the game. Forward Jared Boll (foot) missed Monday's game. Forwards Nathan Horton (shoulder), Cody Bass (hand), Marian Gaborik (knee) and Brandon Dubinsky (foot) are on injured reserve.

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