Despite laboring through a disappointing season, the Nashville Predators have still managed to continue their dominance over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
They look to defeat the Blue Jackets for the 12th straight time when the Central Division rivals meet Thursday in Nashville.
The Predators (16-17-2) were tied with defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim for the third-most points in the NHL last season (110), but they are now languishing in 14th place in the Western Conference with 34 points. Nashville finished second behind Detroit in the Central each of the last three seasons, but is in last place - four points back of Columbus (16-14-6) for fourth.
On Wednesday, the Predators suffered their sixth loss in eight games, falling 5-2 at Chicago. Nashville led the West with 272 goals last season, but is now tied with Edmonton for the eighth-most in the conference this season with 96.
"We need to get some gritty goals on deflection and screens," goaltender Chris Mason said. "We don't have the same kind of skilled goal-scoring we've had in previous years."
The Predators have still thrived against the Blue Jackets, however, outscoring them 11-5 to win all three meetings in 2007-08. Nashville has won 11 straight over Columbus since the start of last season - the longest active winning streak by one Western Conference club over another - including a 3-1 road victory Sunday after J.P. Dumont's go-ahead goal with 38 seconds left in regulation.
Dumont, who is third on Nashville with 10 goals, has six goals and four assists during the 11-game winning streak over Columbus.
Mason has been in net for each game against Columbus this season, posting a 1.62 goals-against average in those contests. He is 7-1-0 with a 1.72 GAA and one shutout lifetime against the Blue Jackets.
Mason stopped 16 of 18 shots Wednesday after replacing Dan Ellis, who was pulled late in the first period after allowing two goals on the Blackhawks' first three shots.
Meanwhile, Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire made 21 saves Wednesday for his league-leading seventh shutout in a 2-0 win over Atlanta.
The Blue Jackets were without leading scorer Rick Nash (sore throat) against the Thrashers, but goals from Dan Fritsche and Jared Boll provided all the offense they needed.
"Guys came in and were ready to play and we played a simple game," said Leclaire, who had been 0-2-2 with a 2.68 GAA in his previous six starts. "If we play that kind of hockey when our stars come back there's no reason we shouldn't win a lot of hockey games."
The Blue Jackets will now try to win consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 23-24.
Leclaire has been awful in nine career games against the Thrashers, going 1-5-0 with a 4.37 GAA - his worst GAA against any opponent.
Backup Fredrik Norrena, who made 29 saves in Sunday's start against Nashville, is no better, at 0-5-1 with a 2.77 GAA versus the Thrashers.