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Rick Nash helped the Columbus Blue Jackets open their current homestand with a much-needed victory.
The All-Star hopes to lead his club to a second straight win while trying for another big game overall as the Blue Jackets meet the Ottawa Senators on Friday night at Nationwide Arena for the first time in more than two years.
Nash recorded his third career hat trick and first this season in Columbus' 3-2 overtime victory over Central Division-leading Detroit on Tuesday. The result helped the Blue Jackets (23-20-5) avoid a third straight loss after winning four of five.
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With a team-leading 22 goals, Nash has five and two assists in four games after missing four with a lower-body injury. His hot streak is helping Columbus make a serious push for the franchise's first playoff appearance.
"He, more than anyone, recognizes the opportunity in front of us and he sent the other players a clear message," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He wants to finish the job and make a run for this thing. ... Rick's able to start at a high pace and others are able to tag along. And that's what leaders are able to do."
Nash has played well against Ottawa (17-22-7), scoring three times in his last two games against the Senators, who have dropped their last two meetings with Columbus.
"He's awesome," teammate and former Senator Mike Commodore said of Nash. "He's a special player. To be his size and with his hands, to be able to protect the puck and turn and make plays - I wish I had a quarter of his talent."
Commodore finished with two assists on Tuesday for the Blue Jackets, who will continue a four-game homestand. Columbus has won nine of its last 11 at home to improve to 14-7-1.
Nash had two power-play goals in a 6-2 win over the Senators in their last visit to Columbus on Dec. 10, 2006. The Blue Jackets won 3-2 in a shootout at Ottawa on Feb. 21 in the team's most recent meeting.
Rookie star Steve Mason is likely to get his first look at the Senators after making 21 saves against the Red Wings. Mason is 18-11-2 with a league-leading 2.04 goals-against average this season.
Ottawa is coming off a 3-1 win at St. Louis on Thursday, its fourth victory in six games after losing five in a row.
"We played 60 minutes of real hardworking hockey," said Senators coach Craig Hartsburg, whose team is 6-14-3 away from home. "It's what we've been asking for and we got it."
Daniel Alfredsson had an assist for his fifth point in as many games. He has a goal and four assists in five career games versus Columbus.
Though rookie Brian Elliott made 22 saves in his seventh straight start, the struggling Alex Auld could be in net for this contest. Mired in a seven-game losing streak, Auld is 9-11-5 with a 2.64 GAA on the season, but 4-2-0 with a 2.94 GAA against Columbus.
|Jan 30 '09||OTT 0 at CBJ 1||J. Voracek|