Predators-Blue Jackets Preview


After Pekka Rinne got a rare night off, it's probable that he'll be back in goal in the Nashville Predators' next game.

That would give him a chance to notch his sixth straight win and continue his dominance over the league-worst Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night.

Nashville (26-16-4) is finishing up a three-game trip, which Rinne opened by making 36 saves in a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders on Monday. His run of nine straight starts was halted the next night, with backup Anders Lindback getting the nod in a 3-0 loss to the Rangers that snapped the Predators' five-game win streak.

Lindback, who got the start in part to match up with his childhood idol, Swedish countryman Henrik Lundqvist, made 26 saves.

"I thought Lindy gave us a real good game," coach Barry Trotz said. "I said to our guys, we didn't really take a step backward, even though we lost the game."

Rinne has posted a 1.60 goals-against average during his win streak. The Vezina Trophy finalist has beaten the Blue Jackets (13-27-5) more than any other opponent, going 12-4-1 with a 2.67 GAA in 18 starts.

Nashville is 3-0-1 against Columbus this season, with each game decided by one goal.

Defenseman Ryan Suter leads the Predators with eight points in the season series. Suter missed his first game of the season Tuesday due to an upper-body injury, but Trotz believes he has a good chance of returning against the Blue Jackets.

Jeff Carter scored five goals in those four meetings for Columbus, but he's out with a separated shoulder. The club is also without key contributors James Wisniewski and R.J. Umberger.

The Blue Jackets have split four contests since interim coach Todd Richards replaced Scott Arniel on Jan. 9. They will try to win consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 19-21 after a 4-2 victory over Edmonton on Tuesday.

Derek MacKenzie scored in the third period to put the Blue Jackets ahead for good. Columbus won for the first time after conceding the first two goals as they took advantage of an Oilers team playing without three of its top four scorers.

"There's been times in the past when we've talked about sticking together, we've talked about playing as a team, rolling four lines, getting something from everybody," MacKenzie said. "After the first period, that's exactly what we did. We did what we had to do to get the win."

A revamped defense has seen youngsters such as John Moore and David Savard get more ice time under Richards. The coaching change has also revitalized Derick Brassard, who has three points in his last three games after recording two in the previous six contests.

"I just want the players to take more ownership in the team," Richards said. "I want the leaders to take more ownership in the group, in running the group."

Curtis Sanford, 1-1-1 with a 4.23 GAA against Nashville this season, has started the last seven games for Columbus.

"He's been a rock back there for us for most of the games he's been in," Richards said.