Predators look to sweep Blue Jackets in Nashville

Defenseman Mattias Ekholm is back in the Nashville lineup, and the Predators find themselves in great spirits.

Ekholm returned after a 2½-week absence and scored twice - his first goals of the season and first two-tally game of his career - as the Predators opened their back-to-back set of matinee games Saturday with a 2-1 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.

Both goals came on long blasts from the blue line and with plenty of traffic in front of Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo.

The first, which resulted in Ekholm's 200th career point, came with Mikael Granlund blocking Korpisalo's view. Luke Kunin provided the screen on the second marker.

Positioned above only the Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division standings as Saturday dawned, the Predators won for the fourth time in five meetings with Columbus.

The teams return to the ice on Sunday in Nashville at 3 p.m.

After starting the season with a pair of home wins over the Blue Jackets, coach John Hynes said his team managed to maintain a positive attitude after losing five of its next seven games - sliding them toward the tough division's basement.

Nashville has not panicked early in the 56-game campaign.

"Right now, what I see is an excitement and some passion, some guys enjoying getting better and playing well. I think that's the phase we're in right now. I think they're hungry," said Hynes, whose club has won three of its last four games.

Ryan Johansen has played three games after missing seven, but the center, who was on a line between Nick Cousins and Eeli Tolvanen on Saturday, has yet to register a point in his return. Defenseman Jarred Tinordi was claimed on waivers by Boston on Saturday.

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella put his forward lines in a blender during the third period, but the visitors couldn't score to tie the game.

"There's just not a lot of players in an offensive flow," Tortorella said after Columbus fell to 1-4-2 in its last seven. "I have an idea of what I want. I liked what happened in the third period."

Tortorella paired up acquisitions Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic late with Cam Atkinson, who scored his team-leading ninth goal.

"When I put (Laine, Roslovic and Atkinson) back together, you could see some flow. But there were some opportunities to make another play, and it just doesn't get done," Tortorella added.

Traded from Winnipeg to Columbus last month in the deal that sent star forward Pierre-Luc Dubois and a draft pick to the Jets, the newcomers have lived up to the hype of the transaction - considered a blockbuster when it went down on Jan. 23.

A high-scoring right winger, Laine has done what he was brought in to do from Winnipeg - find the back of the net with his devastating slap shot.

The Finn has notched six goals and four assists in his 12 games with Columbus. He recorded a three-point game (two goals, assist) in his lone outing for the Jets before the trade.

Wearing the colors of his hometown club, Roslovic has produced four tallies and nine assists in 15 contests with the Blue Jackets.

Korpisalo was strong in goal with 31 saves on 33 shots, but Nashville's Juuse Saros allowed just Atkinson's tally on Columbus' 30 shots to improve his record to 4-5-0.

--Field Level Media

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