The Nashville Predators have not won back-to-back games since March 25 of last season when they beat the Edmonton Oilers after defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets two days earlier. That’s a streak they’ll be looking to break tonight as the Florida Panthers come to Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville has started the season with a 2-3-0 record, winning two of their three games at home. However, posting back-to-back wins is something that hasn’t happened for them in a long time. Changing that is going to be essential for the Predators if they hope to have any sort of success this season.
“I think we have to approach it, not as in a streak sense, but as in just winning games,” said Predators forward Paul Gaustad. “Forget what happened last game and just move forward and win a game.”
Tonight presents the Predators with a good opportunity to start building some positive momentum. The Panthers have posted a 2-4-0 record on the season so far and have given up 24 goals, which is the second most goals allowed in the NHL behind Edmonton. The Predators need to put some wins together to climb back into the Central Division race.
“It’s big. I think anytime you got out there you go there to win the game, but yeah for sure, I think to be able to build some confidence and put some wins together here would be really crucial for us right now. Now is a good chance to take care of these couple last home games before the road trip and go from there,” said Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne.
Florida will present a challenge to the Predators, particularly offensively. They have some good young forwards in rookie sensation Aleksander Barkov, who was drafted second overall by the Panthers in the 2013 NHL Draft, and in last season’s Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau. Added to that young talent are veteran forwards like Tomas Fleischmann and Brad Boyes, who have combined for 11 points in the first six games of the season. The Predators are going to have to play a solid game defensively.
“Good forwards, a lot of skill, and obviously they’ve shown that they can score goals,” Rinne said. “I think the key is to defend well and be patient and focus on our game. I think it’s going to be a tough game. I think both teams need these points, and it’s going to be a good battle.”
“We know that they’re skilled. They beat Pittsburgh pretty handily so we know they have a lot of skill. We’ve got to make sure it’s a hard game for them to play tonight,” Gaustad said.
Special teams played a key role for the Predators in Saturday night’s 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. They got a power play goal from Seth Jones and made a huge four-minute penalty kill in the third period to preserve their lead.
“Every night we’re aiming at winning the special teams battle so we have to do it tonight, and it gives our team a chance to win,” Gaustad said.
“It’s tough to score 5-on-5,” Rinne said. “A lot of times it comes down to special teams match-ups,and you have to put a lot of emphasis on your penalty kill and your power play. I don’t think tonight is any different. They have a good power play, we have a good power play, and I think it’s going to be a good special teams battle.”
Here is what Predators head coach Barry Trotz had to say this morning about tonight’s contest against the Panthers…