The Nashville Predators have dominated the Columbus Blue Jackets recently. Judging by the teams' performance this season, that trend could be ready to come to an end.
The Predators look to stretch their winning streak against the Blue Jackets to nine on Saturday night when the Central Division rivals meet for the first time this season.
While Nashville has increased its point total each of the last four seasons - setting a franchise record with 110 in 2006-07 - Columbus has never reached the playoffs since joining the NHL in 2000-01.
Because the franchises have been going in opposite directions recently, it doesn't come as a surprise that the Predators have won the last eight meetings. Nashville is 14-3-1 with one tie all-time at the Sommet Center against the Blue Jackets, outscoring them 12-3 during a four-game win streak there.
Columbus (8-5-2), however, has been one of the league's biggest surprises this season despite losing its last two games.
Bolstered by the outstanding goaltending of Pascal Leclaire, the Blue Jackets are off to the best start in franchise history. Leclaire is 7-3-0, leads the NHL with five shutouts and ranks second with a 1.40 goals-against average.
Leclaire had a personal four-game win streak snapped Friday, stopping 32 shots in a 4-1 loss to red-hot Detroit.
Rick Nash scored his team-leading 11th goal for Columbus, which has been outscored 9-3 in back-to-back losses.
Leclaire is 1-4-0 with a 4.63 GAA in seven appearances against the Predators.
Nash's improved production is another reason for the Blue Jackets' fast start. He has 11 goals in 15 games this season after he had four at that point in 2006-07.
Nash has eight goals and seven assists in 21 games against Nashville but has no points in the last four meetings.
The Predators (7-7-1) have been a much better team since losing six straight last month. They are 5-1-1 in their last seven games, including a 3-0-1 mark in the past four contests.
Ryan Suter and J.P. Dumont scored third-period goals as Nashville rallied for a point in a 3-2 shootout loss Wednesday at Detroit.
Most impressive was the performance of goaltender Chris Mason, who made a career-high 43 saves. Mason has stopped 73 of 77 shots in his past two starts after going 0-7-0 with a 5.08 GAA in his previous seven appearances.
"I think that was a huge step for us," Mason said. "Detroit doesn't give up many two-goal leads for us in the third period. It might not have been our strongest game, but we hung around and kept working."
Mason, who figures to be back in net Saturday, is 4-1-0 with one shutout a 1.78 GAA in five career starts against Columbus.
Center David Legwand was held without a goal for the first time in four games Wednesday but did pick up an assist. He has three goals and six assists in his last seven contests.