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Predators seek to maintain mastery of Blue Jackets

by Brian Hunter
PREDATORS (29-19-3) at BLUE JACKETS (20-25-9)

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

Season Series: Fifth of six meetings this season. Nashville has won all four matchups so far, though Columbus has collected three points through an overtime loss and a pair of shootout defeats. This is a series the Predators have absolutely owned in recent seasons, going 22-2-2 since 2006-07.

Big Story:
Last season, the Blue Jackets made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in the franchise's history while the Predators were left out of the Western Conference's top eight for the first time since 2003. The roles appear to have reversed back, though the Predators are hardly guaranteed of anything if they can't keep up their strong pace from the first half, and the Blue Jackets still have a narrow window of time with which to make a charge.

Team Scope:

Nashville is just a .500 hockey club over its last 16 games and will be seeking to avoid its first four-game losing streak since the opening month of the season, when the Predators dropped six in a row before catching fire. This will be the third stop on a four-game road trip that has featured losses in Phoenix in Colorado. They played a strong game against the Avalanche but lost 2-1 with Cody Franson scoring their only goal.

"We played a pretty good game but we took too many penalties," forward Patric Hornqvist said. "We had four penalties in the offensive zone and that's not good. They scored two PP goals and we scored one. That was the difference."

Blue Jackets: Following a stretch in which it lost 21 of 24 games, Columbus has also been a .500 hockey club over its last 10 games -- however, the Blue Jackets will have to play a lot better than that in order to dig themselves out of the hole their dismal month of December created. They lost 4-2 in Minnesota on Saturday, a game that wasn't as close as the final score would indicate -- the Jackets scored both their goals in the final 22 seconds after the outcome had been long decided.

"We're desperate for points," captain Rick Nash said. "If we're going to make a run here we need to start it right now. I thought we played desperate on Thursday night (a 3-2 win in Boston), but tonight we didn't play desperate for the full 60."

Who's Hot: Hornqvist has had points in 15 of 19 games since mid-December, collecting 14 goals and seven assists for Nashville during that span. … Columbus forward Antoine Vermette has five goals and six assists over his last 11 games. Nash has five goals and three assists in his past seven games.

Injury Report: Forwards Joel Ward (groin) and Marcel Goc (upper body) are day-to-day for the Predators. … Defenseman Rostislav Klesla (groin) is on injured reserve, while defenseman Marc Methot (flu-like symptoms) and forward Jakub Voracek (upper body) are day-to-day for the Blue Jackets.

Stat Pack: With 32 points, Hornqvist finds himself in a three-way tie for the Nashville scoring lead with J.P. Dumont and Steve Sullivan. … The Columbus power play has improved from last in the League a season ago at 12.7 percent to seventh so far at 20.6 percent.

Puck Drop:
The Jackets have played the Predators tough all season, but they need two points out of Tuesday's game, not just one.

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