As the Nashville Predators concluded a five game road trip with a disappointing 3-2 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes, the team found themselves with a 3-5-2 record, good for just eight (of a possible 20) points, and buried in last place in the Central Division.
Granted, just 48 hours before, the team had put on a clinic in Colorado, having schooled the home team Avalanche by a 5-1 margin. But, having a 2-1 lead in Arizona, going into the final frame, the Preds could not hold the lead, and gave up the tying goal in regulation and the winning goal in the shootout.
On that night in Arizona, Preds netminder Pekka Rinne was truly bested by Arizona’s Louie Domingue, who faced and stopped 35 of 37 shots, and two more in the shootout for the win.
Returning home, it felt a bit like “déjà vu all over again,” as the team was greeted with huge cheers from the fans, and faced the league’s cellar dwelling Carolina Hurricanes. The Canes, formerly coached (to the Stanley Cup) by current Predators bench boss Peter Laviolette, were trailing 2-1 going into the third period, when a short-handed goal by veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey tied the score, and again we went through overtime into the shootout.
Nashville missed on all three of their attempts, but another Canes rearguard, young Jaccob Slavin put one past Rinne for the win, leaving the Preds, once again, with just a single point for the night.
On Tuesday night, the Preds faced off against the Ottawa Senators, and this time, after a scoreless first period, the home town boys put up a pair of goals in the second period, added one in the third, and then held on to beat the Sens 3-1. Rinne stopped 33 of 34 for the victory, and defenseman P.K. Subban was honored as the number one star, netting the game winning goal and adding an assist.
The team has had its ups and downs in the early going. Getting off to a very fast start on the power play, the Preds had netted 10 goals with the man advantage after just six games into the season. However, their power play has scored just twice in 21 attempts in the most recent six games, and they now sit as the fourth best NHL team with the man advantage. Conversely, having been 29th on the penalty kill in the early going, the team has held strong on the past twelve penalties against them and have now inched up to 26th over the past four games.
On the injury front, Mike Fisher has missed the past few games with an upper body injury, but he may be back as soon as tonight against St. Louis. If not, we hope he’ll draw back into the lineup on Saturday against Anaheim.
Defenseman Tony Bitetto and forward Miikka Salomaki remain out of the lineup as well, but the team has gotten a boost from minor league call-up Matt Irwin, playing the last six games and scoring three goals, as well as adding an assist. Irwin, a free-agent defenseman signing, did not make the team out of training camp, but was called up to Nashville and has found a home on the third pairing with Yannick Weber. Weber and Irwin lead the team in plus/minus with a +3 rating.
As mentioned earlier, tonight (Thursday) the Predators host the rival St. Louis Blues. Former Nashville backup goaltender, Carter Hutton, may be in nets against his former team, as the Blues number one netminder, Jake Allen was between the pipes last night in a 2-1 loss to Chicago.
Saturday, the Preds will host the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks pasted Nashville 6-1 in California to start the five-game October road swing, so expect the team to exact some revenge upon the fowl foes from behind the Orange Curtain.
When the homestand concludes, the Predators head off to Toronto for a Tuesday night game against the Maple Leafs. Two more road games (Ottawa and St. Louis) will follow.
Look for Filip Forsberg to break out of his season long slump and notch his first goal of the season. Forsberg has been dynamic and has electrified the crowd through the neutral zone but has yet to light the lamp. James Neal has a couple of goals in the past couple of games, and looks like he’s starting to heat up. Kevin Fiala and back-up goaltender Marek Mazanec were shipped down to Milwaukee (AHL) for some tune-up work, and forward Pontus Aberg and goaltender Juuse Saros are currently up with the big club.
Parity being what it is, a couple of victories to end this homestand will position the Predators back “in the hunt.” Come on out to Bridgestone and cheer on our men in gold.
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