Marian Gaborik had an impressive debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets and he'll try to build off that performance when his new club visits the St. Louis Blues for Friday's important battle at Scottrade Center.
Gaborik was acquired from the New York Rangers at Wednesday's trade deadline and he posted his first goal as a Blue Jacket in Thursday's 3-1 victory at Nashville.
It was the third straight win for Columbus, which is desperately trying to qualify for the postseason for just the second time in franchise history. The Blue Jackets are currently tied with Edmonton for ninth place in the West, one point in back of the Blues for the conference's final playoff berth. St. Louis has two games in hand over the Blue Jackets.
Gaborik hopes he can push the balance in Columbus' favor down the stretch and the three-time 40-goal scorer delivered the tie-breaking goal in the win over the Predators. The veteran sniper notched his 10th goal of the season early in the third period and also added an assist in his Blue Jackets' debut.
Gaborik, who cost Columbus Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett, John Moore and a sixth-round pick, tipped in a feed from Brandon Dubinsky -- another former Ranger -- at 4:16 of the final frame to break a 1-1 stalemate.
"I'm glad I got my first one under the belt," Gaborik said.
Matt Calvert added an insurance goal later on for surging Columbus, which is now 11-2-3 since March 3. The most recent triumph -- the Jackets' first regulation win in Nashville since 2006 -- also vaulted Columbus over the Predators in the Western Conference standings.
James Wisniewski also tallied to help back an outstanding 38-save effort from Blue Jackets' goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Columbus has won its last two games on the road but still has a poor 5-10-2 record as the visiting team this season. The Blue Jackets will follow Friday's test with a three-game homestand, a stint that is set to start Sunday against Minnesota.
The Blue Jackets will have to overcome their recent past against St. Louis to further their playoff chances in tonight's game. The Blues are 2-0 against Columbus this season and have won four of five and nine of 11 in this series. St. Louis also has claimed four of five, six of eight and 14 of its last 17 home tests against the Blue Jackets.
Ken Hitchcock's club enters Friday on a two-game win streak of its own. The Blues also were in action on Thursday and posted a shootout victory in Chicago. Kevin Shattenkirk scored the winner in the sixth round as the Blues took a 4-3 win at United Center.
In the sixth round after Brian Elliott stopped Michal Handzus, Shattenkirk skated in on net and buried a wrister past Corey Crawford for the win.
Adam Cracknell scored his first two goals of the season while David Backes also scored for the Blues, who had lost three straight in regulation before winning their last two against Minnesota and the Blackhawks.
"It's exciting playing at this place and in this atmosphere," said Cracknell. "I was real happy to be able to contribute and help the club gain some ground in the playoff push."
Elliott stopped 33 shots in the win and with Jaroslav Halak out with a lower body injury, he'll get another start tonight. Halak suffered a groin injury in Monday's game against the Wild and he's expected to miss three weeks of action.
St. Louis has lost two straight on home ice and is 8-7-1 in the Gateway City this season. The Blues will head out on a three-game road trip after tonight's game and will begin the swing Sunday in Detroit.