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Jackets attempt to cool off Predators

by John McGourty /

BLUE JACKETS (12-6-2) at PREDATORS (11-8-1)

Last 10: Columbus 6-2-2; Nashville 8-2-0

Season series: This is the first meeting this season of these Central Division rivals, who play three times during the month of December. The teams evenly split their six meetings last year with the home team winning every game. Ten of the past 12 meetings have been won by the home team.

Big Story: No division is hotter than the Central right now. The Blackhawks have a five-game win streak. Nashville has won four-straight. Columbus has won three in a row. St. Louis won their last game and Detroit lost their last game after winning three in a row.

The Predators have won eight of their past 10 games and they beat the New Jersey Devils and San Jose Sharks in their past two games. Pekka Rinne, who took over as the starter in net last season, is playing at an almost identical 2.35 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. He's been in net for the past three victories.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: This is the first game of a season-high, five-game road trip and the Jackets enter it with a fresh outlook. The Nikita Filatov drama is over after the team on Wednesday "loaned" its first-round pick from a year ago to CSKA Moscow, perhaps never to return. One night later, the Blue Jackets played one of their strongest games all season in downing Dallas, 4-1. In beating Marty Turco, who entered 14-1-2 against them, the Blue Jackets may now see themselves as who they could be rather than who they've been.

Predators: Nashville's "Geezer Line" of Jason Arnott, 35, Steve Sullivan, 35, and J.P. Dumont, 31, is healthy and making a big difference. Arnott missed seven games recently with an arm injury but had two goals in the win against New Jersey. Dumont missed four games early in the season after an opening-night head injury and three recently with an arm injury. His four assists in the past three games helped him to the team scoring lead with three goals and 12 assists for 15 points. Sullivan missed most of the past two seasons with back problems and he's the only one on the line to play every game this season. He's got four goals and five assists for nine points and four points in his past three games.

Who's Hot: In addition to the Arnott line, David Legwand has five points in seven games for Nashville and Joel Ward has two goals and three assists in six games. Shea Weber has three power-play goals, tied for the league lead among defensemen. Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash has 14 points in the past 12 games. Kristian Huselius has six points in the past three games. Antoine Vermette has three points in three games.

Injury Report:
Blue Jackets center Samuel Pahlsson has missed the past three games with an elbow injury. Center Andrew Murray is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Derek Dorsett may have suffered a concussion Thursday against Dallas and his status is uncertain. Fredrik Modin hasn't played all season due to a knee injury. Predators rookie center Colin Wilson has missed the past seven games with a groin injury. Right wing Wade Belak missed the past two games with a groin injury and has played in only one of the past six games.

Stat Pack: Nashville is 9-0 when they score a power-play goal, yet ranks 27th in the NHL on the power play, scoring on only 14.7 percent of its opportunities. The Predators are 18.2 percent successful at home. Columbus has the NHL's fifth-best power play, cashing in on 25 percent of its chances.

Puck Drop:
Team unity was the theme Thursday when Columbus beat Dallas. The team bonded strongly after James Neal's hit on Dorsett, getting two goals on the ensuing five-minute power play. Seventy-three minutes in penalties were assessed. Huselius scored in the first period's final second. That's playing hard every second of the game.

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