Published January 13, 2015
The Columbus Blue Jackets are aiming for a win and a little bit of help, as they try to make the playoffs for just the second time since the franchise's inception.
The Blue Jackets have one last chance to prove themselves playoff worthy when they welcome the Nashville Predators on Saturday for one of the most important games ever played at Nationwide Arena.
With 53 points, the Blue Jackets are tied with Minnesota for the last playoff spot in the West and one point in back of seventh-seeded Detroit. All three teams play their final games of the regular season on Saturday.
Columbus has several avenues into the postseason, but most of them require the Blue Jackets to win Saturday's regular-season finale.
A Blue Jackets' win plus a regulation loss by Detroit at Dallas would do the trick. Columbus could also get in if it wins and Minnesota loses Saturday at Colorado, or if the Wild lose in regulation and Columbus gains a point against the Predators. If any of those scenarios play out, the Blue Jackets will be a playoff team for the second time since entering the league in 2000-01 and first time since 2009, when they were swept out of the first round by the Red Wings.
Playoffs or not, Columbus certainly can hold its head high due to its performance down the stretch. The Blue Jackets have won seven of their last eight and closed a six-game road trip with consecutive wins after Thursday's 3-1 victory in Dallas.
Columbus and Dallas both needed wins to stay alive heading into Thursday's game, but the Stars would've been eliminated anyway after Detroit beat Nashville on the same night. The Blue Jackets, however, stayed alive thanks to a two-goal effort from Cam Atkinson and 31 saves from goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
"It feels great," Atkinson said of being in the playoff race. "You can only control what you can control and that's what we're doing."
Mark Letestu also tallied for the Blue Jackets, who went 5-1-0 on the trip to end the regular season with a 10-12-2 mark on the road. Columbus is 13-5-5 as the host in 2013.
The Blue Jackets have taken three of four from Nashville this season, but the Preds have won eight of 12 in the series overall. The Predators also had won three straight in Columbus before the Blue Jackets recorded a 4-3 regulation win at Nationwide Arena on March 19.
Nashville will miss the playoffs for just the second time in nine seasons and Barry Trotz's club will be happy to put this campaign in the rearview mirror after the season finale on Saturday.
The Predators have lost nine of 10 and 12 of their last 14 games and were handed a 5-2 loss Thursday in Detroit. Pavel Datsyuk posted a goal and an assist during a three-goal second period that propelled the playoff-hopeful Red Wings to a much-needed win.
Mike Fisher and Craig Smith registered a goal and an assist apiece for the Predators, while Chris Mason made 33 saves in defeat.
"Early you could tell there was a lot of rust," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said of Mason. "He's hasn't played a lot, but he's a battler and he battled tonight."
The Preds are 5-13-5 as the road team this season and have lost nine in a row as the guest since earning a win at Dallas on March 12.