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At the Rink: Predators at Jets

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- The Nashville Predators will have a new look to their lineup when they visit the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, TSN3).

Having lost four games in a row and six of their past seven, the Predators (19-17-7) will have forwards Kevin Fiala and Cody Bass in the lineup. They had been recalled from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League on Wednesday.

Fiala, 19, has six goals and 15 assists in 34 games with Milwaukee in his first full North American season after the Predators selected him 11th in the 2014 NHL Draft. Predators coach Peter Laviolette said he will slot Fiala at left wing on the first line with center Ryan Johansen and right wing James Neal. Bass will play on the fourth line.

"We're not scoring goals (nine goals in the past six games), so we're going to look to bring Kevin in and see if he can bring some offense to our [team]," Laviolette said. "It provides a balance. We can move guys around and get a balance out there."

Jets (19-21-3) coach Paul Maurice said he will dress the same lineup that he used Tuesday in a 4-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks with one exception. Matt Halischuk, who was recalled from Manitoba of the AHL on Wednesday, is expected to replace Anthony Peluso. Center Mark Scheifele remains out because of a lower-body injury.

Jets captain Andrew Ladd and forward Chris Thorburn will switch lines; Ladd will skate with center Mathieu Perreault and rookie Nikolaj Ehlers.

"[Ladd] is going to go back and forth over the course of the game depending on the matchup and how we like the way it's going," Maurice said.

Rookie goaltender Connor Hellebuyck will start for the 14th time in the past 16 games for the Jets. The Predators' Pekka Rinne will make his 18th start in goal in the past 20 games.

The Predators are fifth in the Central Division and have a four-point lead on the sixth-place Jets, who have lost three games in a row (0-2-1) since defeating the Predators 4-1 at Bridgestone Arena on Jan. 5.

"We're a good team that is struggling too so it's going to be a battle," Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart said.

A loss would put the Predators in an even more difficult spot as they try to keep their hold on the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference. They have 45 points, the same as the Colorado Avalanche and one more than the Vancouver Canucks.

"We've seen ourselves slip in the standings and we're in a position of vulnerability," Laviolette said.

Neal is one of the Predators struggling lately, with two goals in his past 10 games.

"The [Western Conference] is tough," Neal said. "No matter where you are you're always kind of still in it or kind of still out of it, I guess you could say. We've got to start putting some wins together here."

Here are the projected lineups:

PREDATORS

Kevin Fiala - Ryan Johansen - James Neal

Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - Calle Jarnkrok

Eric Nystrom - Mike Fisher - Craig Smith

Miikka Salomaki - Paul Gaustad - Cody Bass

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis

Anthony Bitetto - Barret Jackman

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Injured: Gabriel Bourque (upper body), Colin Wilson (lower body)

Scratched: Petter Granberg, Austin Watson

JETS

Drew Stafford - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Andrew Ladd - Mathieu Perreault - Nikolaj Ehlers

Chris Thorburn - Adam Lowry - Alexander Burmistrov

Joel Armia - Andrew Copp - Matt Halischuk

Jacob Trouba - Dustin Byfuglien

Toby Enstrom - Tyler Myers

Mark Stuart - Ben Chiarot

Connor Hellebuyck

Michael Hutchinson

Injured: Grant Clitsome (back), Ondrej Pavelec (knee), Mark Scheifele (lower body)

Scratched: Adam Pardy, Anthony Peluso

Status report: With Fiala joining the lineup, Forsberg was moved to the second line. Also Jarnkrok and Smith swapped lines. … Maurice said Scheifele will not play Friday when the Jets visit the Minnesota Wild.

Who's hot: Stafford has two goals and two assists in his past four games.

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