Blue Jackets-Predators Preview

For nearly five years, the Nashville Predators were able to notch two points each time they hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Predators now look to avoid losing back-to-back games on home ice to the Blue Jackets for the first time when the Central Division foes meet Thursday night.

Starting with the 2006-07 season, Nashville reeled off 17 straight home wins over Columbus before falling 4-3 in overtime Nov. 19. James Wisniewski beat Pekka Rinne midway through the extra period to give the Blue Jackets just their fifth win in 33 games all-time in Tennessee.

Since entering the league in 2000, the Blue Jackets have never won consecutive contests at Bridgestone Arena.

Though Columbus (9-20-4) has the league's worst record this season, it's 1-1-1 against Nashville.

The Predators are returning home after their season-best five-game winning streak ended with Tuesday's 4-1 loss at Washington. Sergei Kostitsyn scored for Nashville while backup Anders Lindback stopped 19 shots during his first action in nearly three weeks.

"We didn't give enough run support for Lindy," coach Barry Trotz said. "When it was 2-1, we had lots of chances to tie it up, and we didn't."

Trotz will be expected to start Rinne on Thursday. Rinne, who has won five straight and is among the league leaders with 15 victories, is 4-0-1 with a 2.38 goals-against average in his last five starts against the Blue Jackets.

When facing Columbus this season, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber have been the key playmakers for Nashville (17-12-4). In three games, the defensemen have combined for nine assists - matching the total from the rest of the team combined.

Weber leads the Predators with 17 assists, one more than Suter and rookie Craig Smith.

Losers of three straight, the Blue Jackets are seeking their first regulation win since Nov. 25 against Buffalo. They've gone 3-7-1 following that victory, with all three wins coming in shootouts.

Columbus' most recent loss came in regulation, and was a difficult one to absorb. Given a 3-2 lead after two periods, Steve Mason surrendered three third-period goals, and St. Louis added an empty-netter to send the Blue Jackets to a 6-4 loss Sunday.

"We're a fragile team," said Derek Dorsett, who extended a career high with his seventh goal. "If one thing goes wrong, everything just crumbles on us. We've got to be better in the third period, that's the bottom line."

The Blue Jackets lead the league with four regulation losses when leading after two periods. The Predators are 3-9-0 when trailing after 40 minutes.

If the Blue Jackets are to win again in Nashville, coach Scott Arniel may want to start journeyman Curtis Sanford in goal. Back in the NHL for the first time since 2009, Sanford ended Columbus' 17-game skid last month and has surrendered only six goals while winning his last three starts there.

Jackets captain Rick Nash continues to muddle through a subpar season. Nash has scored just two of his team-high 10 goals on the road and is on pace to finish with 24. That would be his fewest since tallying 17 as a rookie after being selected first overall in the 2002 entry draft.

Nash has nine goals in 25 career games at Nashville.