Cincinnati.com
National Hockey League
Preview
Columbus at Nashville
When: 8:00 PM ET, Saturday, April 7, 2018
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history, but they still don't know who their first-round opponent will be entering Saturday's regular-season finale against the Nashville Predators. One thing is certain for Columbus - a victory over the NHL-best Predators will set up a first-round series versus Pittsburgh.

The Blue Jackets, who also could drop into the first or second wild-card spot depending on the outcomes of Saturday's games, earned their postseason berth by going 13-1-2 over their last 16 contests. "What it means to me, and hopefully everybody in our organization, is just an opportunity to play for a Stanley Cup," Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told reporters. "If you're out, you have no opportunity." Nashville, which advanced to the Stanley Cup Final last season, wrapped up the Central Division and its first Presidents' Trophy by knocking off Washington 4-3 on Thursday - establishing itself as the team to beat. "It's definitely something we're proud of, but obviously, the main goal remains to win the Stanley Cup," Predators defenseman Roman Josi told reporters.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, FS Ohio (Columbus), FS Tennessee (Nashville)

ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (45-29-7): Josh Anderson (knee) returned to the lineup in Thursday's 5-4 overtime loss to Pittsburgh after a 17-game absence, while captain Nick Foligno (lower body) and defenseman Markus Nutivaara (upper body) accompanied the team to Nashville. Leading scorer Artemi Panarin kept up his blistering pace with a pair of assists against the Penguins to give him 29 points over his last 16 games and 82 for the season. Cam Atkinson is riding a nine-game point streak and has scored 11 goals in his last 11 contests.

ABOUT THE PREDATORS (52-18-11): Craig Smith scored two goals in Thursday's victory to set a career high of 25 for Nashville, which will face either Colorado or St. Louis in the first round of the playoffs. Josi scored to help the Predators set a franchise record for goals by defensemen in a season with 56 and added an assist to boost his point total to 21 over the last 20 contests. Fellow blue-liner Ryan Ellis, who didn't make his season debut until Jan. 2, has collected two goals and eight points over his last seven games.

OVERTIME

1. Former Blue Jackets C Ryan Johansen has notched seven points in his last eight games for the Predators.

2. Columbus is 7-for-14 on the power play over its last four conests.

3. Nashville has won four straight in the all-time series, including a 3-1 victory at Columbus on Nov. 7.

PREDICTION: Blue Jackets 4, Predators 3
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Day Night Div
Columbus 45-29-3-4 L1 26-12-2-1 19-17-1-3 1-0-1-0 44-29-2-4 14-10-2-2
Nashville 52-18-4-7 W1 27-9-1-3 25-9-3-4 2-1-0-1 50-17-4-6 18-5-1-2
Last Meeting
Columbus Nashville
Date Away Home Shots Saves PP Shots Saves PP
11/7/17 NAS 3 CLB 1 36 26 0-4 29 35 0-4
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Total Points Player  
Columbus P. Dubois 1
Nashville V. Arvidsson 2
Goals Player  
Columbus P. Dubois 1
Nashville V. Arvidsson 1
Assists Player  
Columbus V. Abramov 0
Nashville M. Salomaki 2
Saves Player  
Columbus J. Korpisalo 26
Nashville P. Rinne 35
Season
Total Points Player  
Columbus A. Panarin 87
Nashville V. Arvidsson 64
Goals Player  
Columbus A. Panarin 28
Nashville V. Arvidsson 30
Assists Player  
Columbus A. Panarin 59
Nashville P. Subban 45
Saves Player  
Columbus S. Bobrovsky 1917
Nashville P. Rinne 1753
Quickchart Matchup
Columbus Off vs  Nashville Def
2.89 GF
2.49 GA
33.7 Shots
32.4 Shots
39 PP
54 PK
Nashville Off vs  Columbus Def
3.17 GF
2.74 GA
32.3 Shots
31.4 Shots
56 PP
49 PK