On February 9th, the Nashville Predators last lost a regulation game, dropping a 5-3 contest to the NHL’s overall leaders, the Washington Capitals.
On March 9th, the Preds find themselves in Western Canada, playing the second of back-to-back games following a 4-2 win on Tuesday night in Winnipeg.
Tonight, the team moves on to Calgary for a rematch against the Flames. Nashville beat host Calgary 2-1 in late January, as the team swept a four game swing of Canadian teams, including Vancouver and Edmonton.
On April 9th, the Dallas Stars will host the Predators in Game No. 82, the final game of the regular season, and hopefully a game that will have major implications on the playoff matchups, as the Stanley Cup quest will begin later that week.
The Preds have now won nine of their last thirteen games, with all four of the losses coming via overtime’s new 3-on-3 format. Points in thirteen consecutive games clearly come to mind as a team franchise record, and an opportunity to perhaps pull off a stunning upset as the team learns its fate in the initial matchups for the postseason.
While points and wins will unveil the eventual first round matchups, it cannot be denied that the Predators’ reset button has been hit, and players like Ryan Johansen, Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg are ALL on notice, and it is time to ramp up to the next level of excitement!!!
Optimism abounds in Smashville, as the team remains one of the hottest in the league. Hey, Anaheim is in the midst of an 18-1-2 stretch, which just boggles the mind.
TONIGHT: Nashville is on the road until the 17th of this month when the Preds take on the New York Islanders at Bridgstone Arena.
After a decisive 4-2 win in Winnipeg last night, the team jetted to Calgary in preparation for tonight’s contest against the Flames. In the game vs. the Jets, Nashville dressed six rookie players: Bitetto, Granberg on defense, Salomaki, Arvidsson, Watson and Sissons up front.
Sissons notched a goal and an assist in his first game back from recall, and now wears uniform number 10 – switching from number 84, which he had worn since his NHL debut back in the 2013-14 season.
Following the Flames game tonight, the team will remain in Canada and will face off against Vancouver on Saturday and Edmonton on Monday.
The team’s road success has been well documented this late in the campaign. Overall, the Preds have a 17-11-6 record away from home, and last dropped a regulation loss on January 12th in Chicago. Tonight, they try for their seventh consecutive road win.
WHO’S HOT: They’ve taken to calling him “Crazy Legs” Smith, and after a disappointing first half of the season, the American born forward has been nothing short of sensational since being placed on a line with center Mike Ribeiro and winger Filip Forsberg. Smith has 10 points (5G, 5A) in his last five games, and is now on pace to secure his third consecutive 20 goal campaign. This is the same guy who has had pointless droughts that hit ten games early in the season, and eight more in January.
ODD MEN OUT: While the injury bug has sidelined Preds veterans Eric Nystrom (out since January 26th) and Gabriel Bourque (last seen in NHL game action on November 27th,) throw in recently sidelined center Paul Gaustad, and veteran defenseman Barret Jackman, and you have four guys who are going to have tough times regaining a foothold in the team’s starting lineup.
While Gaustad may be needed for his ability to take defensive zone faceoffs, the rest may have to hope they can replace an injured player, the way they were replaced by more-than-capable youngsters like Salomaki, Arvidsson and Bitetto.
I remain a bit perplexed that the team’s GM, David Poile, did not see this youth movement coming from a mile away and move a healthy (at the time) Gaustad at the deadline for a draft pick, as the team lost a valuable pick in last season’s (poor) deadline deal with Toronto.
Jackman, too, was a player that may have fetched the team a solid asset as many teams were looking for veteran presence on the blueline.