A battle to get out of the Central Division basement is on tap Tuesday in Columbus, as the Blue Jackets invite the struggling Nashville Predators for a clash at Nationwide Arena.
The Blue Jackets and Predators enter Tuesday with identical 11-12-6 records on the season, tying them for last place in the Central with 28 points apiece.
After finishing last in the division in each of the past three seasons, the Blue Jackets would certainly like to hand-off the dubious title to a different team this season. Although Columbus has resembled basement-dwellers for much of this shortened season, the team has shown signs of life in recent weeks.
The Blue Jackets were 5-12-2 through their first 19 games of the season but the club has since earned at least a point in 10 consecutive tilts. All told, Columbus is 6-0-4 during the longest point streak in team history and now finds itself two points out of a playoff spot in the West.
Following a pair of 2-1 shootout defeats against Vancouver and Chicago to begin a five-game homestand, the Blue Jackets were able to record a close win in Saturday's test against Phoenix.
Sergei Bobrovsky's play in net has been the driving force behind Columbus' recent surge and he recorded 39 saves to lead the way in the 1-0 shootout win over the Coyotes.
Bobrovsky is 6-0-2 with a 0.72 goals against average over his last eight games and has been named one of the NHL's Three Stars in each of the past two weeks. He was the First Star for the week ending March 10 and was awarded the Third Star in the most recent edition.
The 24-year-old Bobrovsky, who was dealt to the Blue Jackets by the Philadelphia Flyers in June, has recorded both of his career shutouts this month.
Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu scored in the shootout phase for Columbus. It was the Blue Jackets' fourth straight trip to the shootout round.
"We needed to be better in some areas," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "You could tell our tanks were on empty."
Columbus is 8-4-5 as the host this season and will cap its homestand Friday against Calgary before visiting the Predators on Saturday.
So far, Columbus and the Predators have met for just one of their five encounters this season. The Blue Jackets earned a 3-2 shootout win at Nashville on Jan. 19, but the Predators have still claimed seven of nine overall in this series and three straight in Columbus.
However, nothing seems to be breaking Nashville's way presently, as the club has lost its last three games in regulation and is just 2-6-1 over the last nine.
After getting slammed by a combined 13-7 margin in consecutive losses to Vancouver and Calgary, the Predators fell to 1-3-0 on their five-game road trip with Sunday's 3-2 setback in Edmonton. The score was tied at 1-1 heading into the final 20 minutes, but Lennart Petrell and Jordan Eberle scored for the Oilers in the third period to provide the difference.
Roman Josi had a goal and an assist for Nashville, while Pekka Rinne stopped 18 shots. Rinne managed to last the whole game on Sunday after being pulled early from Nashville's previous two outings due to ineffectiveness.
"We're giving games away. We are making mistakes. It's hard to comprehend right now. We need to get things back on track," Nashville defenseman Shea Weber said.
Nashville played its third straight game Sunday without centerman Paul Gaustad, who is dealing with an unspecified upper body injury. Defenseman Scott Hannan also left Sunday's tilt with an upper body issue and is questionable for Tuesday.