When we said goodbye to our Preds as they embarked on a six-game road trip, we knew that they’d be facing some stiff competition over the next couple of weeks. Division rivals Dallas and St. Louis would be the final two games of the trek, and both teams would be ready to face their formidable foes! What happened, you ask? The team split the first four games of the trip, with wins in Edmonton and Vancouver, but losses in Calgary and Winnipeg, and then crossed the border and headed to Texas, where goaltender Pekka Rinne and the team’s power play prevailed to the tune of a 3-2 win over the Stars.
Two nights later, the team went into St. Louis to face a Blues team that had won seven in a row! The result? Simply a magnificent 2-1 Preds win, and again stellar goaltending from Rinne, and a couple of timely goals from James Neal and Filip Forsberg sealed the deal.
Now, returning home, for a game against the Edmonton Oilers tomorrow (Tuesday) night, the Preds know the Oilers will be looking to avenge the decisive 4-1 Preds win in Edmonton on Oct. 29th, but a key injury to star forward Taylor Hall just may derail their chances. The Preds come home healthy, happy, and sitting high atop the Central Division with a 9-3-2 record, good for 20 points in their first 14 games. Edmonton, at the bottom of the Pacific Division are 6-8-1 and have given up 51 goals in their first 15 games (contrast that to the Preds having allowed only 28 to date!)
The schedule has Nashville playing in St. Louis again on Thursday night, and the Blues fans know from last week’s experience that their team will have their hands full. The Blues have been missing T.J. Oshie, out with a concussion, but still have high flying forward Vladimir Tarasenko on their side. Tarasenko, who has recently been a human highlight reel, with tallies that have seemingly defied gravity, was stopped on a marvelous effort by Pekka Rinne this past Saturday night. He will surely look to even the score on Thursday!
Home… away… and back home again, The Predators will host the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night. Having lost to the Jets in Winnipeg during the road trip, falling behind on two power play goals within the early minutes of the first period, the Preds will look to have a better start, as after they shook off the 2-0 deficit, played well enough to have deserved a better fate in the 3-1 loss.
The play of Forsberg and Neal has been well documented, but their center, Mike Ribiero deserves a lot of praise as well. Ribiero, with 3 goals, 8 assists, is tied with Neal for second in team scoring, and has provided deft passing, and tremendous puck possession in setting up his linemates for numerous scoring opportunities.
Also, of note, has been the strong play of Matt Cullen, who returned from injury when the road trip commenced, and will be playing his first game this season in front of the home crowd vs. Edmonton. In the six games he’s played, Cullen has put up points in four of them, and has been a strong addition on the team’s powerplay.
Three games this week, and hopefully six points in the bag. Preds hockey is exciting, and the rest of the league is talking about the team’s marvelous start. Stick with us, as we skate towards the Stanley Cup!