NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, December 29th (All times eastern)
Carolina Hurricanes (20-16-3) at Columbus Blue Jackets (16-15-6), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Carolina Hurricanes will try to pad their lead in the Southeast Division tonight when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
The Hurricanes lead the standings with 43 points, just four more than second- place Florida. Atlanta is six back of Carolina as well.
The Hurricanes have won two of their last three contests after defeating Boston, 4-3, on Friday. Eric Staal posted a goal and an assist in the win to give him four goals and three assists over a six-game point streak.
Chad LaRose scored while short handed on a penalty shot, giving Carolina a short-handed tally in back-to-back games. LaRose was returning to the lineup after missing three games due to a concussion.
Rod Brind'Amour and Mike Commodore also scored for the Hurricanes, while Cam Ward allowed three goals on 21 shots to earn the win. Ray Whitney extended his point streak to five games (4 goals, 4 assists) with a helper.
Carolina will play on the road, where it is 10-9-2, before returning home for two straight starting with a contest against the Islanders on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets will try to recover tonight from a disappointing loss to Nashville on Thursday. Jiri Novotny's goal put Columbus up by one with 5:33 left in the third, but the Predators roared back with two straight tallies to hand the Blue Jackets a 4-3 setback.
Novotny also had an assist for Columbus, which has lost four of six. Fredrik Norrena made 28 saves in net, while Kris Beech and David Vyborny also scored.
Columbus played its second straight game without leading-scorer Rick Nash, who is battling throat inflammation. Nash leads the team with 18 goals and 31 points but should return tonight.
The Blue Jackets were also without Manny Malhotra (knee) and Michael Peca (head/neck) after placing the centers on injured reserve prior to the game. Malhotra has tallied five goals and six assists in 28 games, while Peca has recorded two goals and 12 assists in 24 contests.
Columbus plays the first of back-to-back home games tonight and is 11-6-4 as the host. The Blue Jackets welcome Edmonton to town on Monday.
Carolina is 6-2 all-time against the Blue Jackets. The two clubs haven't met in Columbus since a 4-1 Hurricanes win on March 8, 2004.
12/29 10:34:56 ET