Nashville Predators (21-8-2) at Columbus Blue Jackets (14-15-3), 7 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Columbus Blue Jackets have gone a long way towards turning their season around over the last few weeks.
Todd Richards' club hopes to keep trending upwards when it completes its pre- Christmas schedule with Monday's home test against the Nashville Predators.
Columbus ended November with a 6-15-2 record on the season after losing its final six games of the month. However, the Blue Jackets began December on a seven-game winning streak and have still yet to lose in regulation this month, going 8-0-1.
The surge has pushed Columbus, which made the playoffs last season for only the second time in club history, within seven points of the last postseason berth in the Eastern Conference.
The Blue Jackets are playing the third part of a five-game homestand tonight. Columbus began the residency with Thursday's 5-4 overtime loss against Washington, but rebounded with a 3-2 shootout victory in Saturday's clash with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Saturday's test marked the sixth straight time the Blue Jackets went beyond regulation, and they boast a 5-0-1 mark in those games.
Jack Johnson played the shootout hero on Saturday, scoring the deciding goal in the ninth round of the tiebreaker. Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky also played a big role, as Columbus ended a 13-game losing streak in the series with the Blackhawks.
After Johnson beat Crawford to begin the ninth round, Bobrovsky stood tall and sealed the win by denying Bryan Bickell's shot from the slot. It was the first win in the series for the Blue Jackets since a 4-3 road win on Feb. 18, 2011.
"You want to measure yourself against the best," Johnson said. "We haven't beaten these guys in awhile so that felt good."
Columbus improved its home record to 7-8-2 with the win. The Blue Jackets will resume their homestand Saturday against Boston before completing the stay versus Minnesota on New Year's Eve.
The Blue Jackets won't have Boone Jenner for any of those games, however, as the forward is expected to miss the next 1-to-2 months with a stress fracture in his back. Jenner, who has six goals and six assists in 20 games this season, suffered the injury against Washington.
Columbus expects to face another stiff test tonight against Nashville, which is just four points behind Chicago for the Central Division lead.
The Predators have won two straight and four of their last five games and the club has seen its last two games go beyond regulation. Nashville won a 3-2 shootout decision Tuesday against visiting Boston before kicking off a three- game road trip with Saturday's thrilling 6-5 overtime win against Minnesota.
Mattias Ekholm scored the game-winning goal against the Wild at 1:45 of OT, as Minnesota couldn't pick up the extra point after tying the game in the final minute of regulation. Minnesota's Thomas Vanek scored with the goalie pulled in favor of the extra attacker with 47.8 seconds remaining in the third.
Despite allowing the late game-tying scorer, the Predators did not let the two points slip away. Ekholm battled along the boards behind the Minnesota net, emerged with the puck and scored off a wrister from the right circle for the win.
"I was just trying to spin in front of the net and get a shot off," Ekholm said. "It wasn't the hardest, but it went in so it's huge."
Craig Smith, Matt Cullen and Roman Josi each had a goal and an assist, while Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg also lit the lamp for the Predators.
Pekka Rinne earned the win despite allowing a season-high five goals on 27 shots.
Nashville played without forward James Neal, who was sidelined with an illness and is questionable for tonight.
With the Preds also playing Tuesday in Boston, it's uncertain if Rinne will start in net tonight against Bobrovsky. Nashville's No. 1 is 16-7-2 with a 2.38 goals against average in his career against the Jackets, while backup Carter Hutton has never faced Columbus.
Bobrovsky owns a 6-2-0 mark and a 2.35 GAA in his career against Nashville.
Tonight's test marks the final scheduled meeting between the Blue Jackets and Preds in 2014-15. Nashville earned a 2-1 win over the Jackets at home on Nov. 29, picking up just the second victory in its last five games against Columbus.
The Preds, who are 9-6-1 as the guest this season, have won four of their last six road games against the Blue Jackets.