Less than a week ago, Dan Ellis felt he was the scapegoat for the struggles of the Nashville Predators. The last two games, he's clearly been the reason for their success.
The rookie goaltender looks to lead the Predators to a third straight win Friday night as they continue their push for the playoffs and try to maintain their dominance over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After Ellis was pulled in two straight losses, Nashville (38-31-8) called up goalie Pekka Rinne from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League to start Saturday's game against Chicago. Rinne's equipment never made it, and Ellis retained his role as the starter and made 37 saves in a 2-1 shootout victory.
Ellis, who was critical of the decision to bring up Rinne, made his seventh straight start Tuesday and had 36 saves for his fifth career shutout in a 3-0 victory over Columbus (34-32-11).
"I think goaltending kind of owed the team after the two games that we had that I got yanked and stuff," said Ellis, who received intravenous fluids after losing 13 pounds during the game. "Our team will find itself, and we just all need to be responsible for our own jobs. That's all I want to worry about is giving our team a chance to win right now."
The Predators, bidding to reach the playoffs for the fourth straight season, are in ninth place in the West, two points behind Vancouver for the conference's final postseason berth.
Nashville will play four of its final five games on the road, including Friday's opener of a three-game trip. This is its final meeting with Columbus this season. The Predators have gained at least a point against the Blue Jackets in 15 straight games, the third-longest such streak in the NHL.
Nashville won all eight meetings with Columbus in 2006-07, although one came in a shootout. The Predators have won six of seven this season, losing in a shootout in their last visit to Nationwide Arena on Jan. 12.
The Blue Jackets have managed only 11 goals in this season's first seven meetings, although Tuesday's loss was the first time they faced Ellis.
"If you're going to go anywhere in this day and age, your goalie has to be the No. 1 guy night in and night out, and Elly's been that for us lately. We need him to keep going because it's not over yet," said Nashville center Jason Arnott, who has eight points during a six-game point streak against Columbus.
Columbus responded to the loss to Nashville with a solid effort in a 4-0 win over Chicago on Wednesday. Fredrik Norrena stopped 17 shots and the Blue Jackets pulled away with three goals in the third period to end a three-game losing streak.
"We've been up and down for a while, playing a good period here and a bad period there," Columbus captain Rick Nash said. "Finally, tonight we put three periods together and it shows what we can do when we play our style."
Nash has a career-high 67 points this season, but none against the Predators. He's gone 10 straight games without a point against Nashville.