The Nashville Predators may have had visions of the Stanley Cup when they acquired Peter Forsberg from Philadelphia. The team's new star, however, may need a few games to get comfortable as he tries to help the Predators get back atop the Western Conference.
Forsberg will try to get on the scoresheet for the first time with his new team when the Predators host the struggling Phoenix Coyotes on Monday night.
A two-time Stanley Cup winner with Colorado, Forsberg was acquired from Philadelphia on Thursday. He made his debut Saturday at home against Minnesota, and playing on the top line with former Avalanche teammate Paul Kariya, had only one shot on goal in more than 19 minutes of ice time in a 4-1 loss.
"I wasn't that good today. I was just trying to pass a little too much," Forsberg, the 2003 Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner, said. "Maybe it's going to take a few games to get into the regular game."
As with many trades, Forsberg thought the recent distractions from being dealt may have contributed to his quiet first game with Nashville.
"I was packing all day (Friday), and stuff like that, coming in late and not really skating this morning," he said. "It was a little tough the past couple of days, but no excuses on Monday. We should be ready to go."
While Nashville wants to get Forsberg on track, a more pressing concern is regaining its spot atop the conference. A Saturday win by surging Detroit over Phoenix, combined with the Predators' sixth loss in nine games, moved the Red Wings one point ahead of the Preds for first place.
"There's no such thing as panic time," Nashville forward Steve Sullivan said. "We know what's in this dressing room. We know what's got to be done. It's just a matter of going out and playing to our strengths, and our skill will take over."
The Predators hope some of that skill will come from Forsberg, who has nine goals with 23 assists in 25 games against the Coyotes. He has a goal and five assists during a four-game point streak against them.
Two days after Detroit took advantage of sinking Phoenix to jump past Nashville, the Predators hope to do the same to the Wings. Nashville, looking to avoid its first three-game skid since Dec. 2-6, has five wins and a tie in its last six games against the Coyotes at the Gaylord Entertainment Center.
Phoenix (25-31-3) is on its way to missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Since posting a season-high seven-game winning streak from Dec. 28-Jan. 9, the Coyotes are 5-11-1 and have little chance of making up the double-digit deficit between them and the final playoff berth in the West.
Coach Wayne Gretzky was clearly upset with his team's effort in the loss to Detroit, as the Coyotes gave up three power-play goals while going 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
"Other than a few guys, we didn't play hard the first two periods," Gretzky said. "Gordie Howe in a Red Wings uniform at age 72 years old might have made a goal in the first two periods. No one gave that effort, other than our goaltender (Mikael Tellqvist) and a few guys."
Mike Zigomanis scored his 11th goal for Phoenix.
Tellqvist, who along with Zigomanis agreed to a two-year contract Friday, has given up 15 goals in his last three starts. Acquired Dec. 28 from Toronto, he made his Phoenix debut Dec. 4 against the Predators and finished with 19 saves in a 3-2 win.
Top Coyotes goalie Curtis Joseph hasn't fared much better than Tellqvist recently, giving up 13 goals while losing his last three starts. He's 1-1-0 with a 3.00 goals-against average this season against Nashville.
Phoenix, 0-4-1 during its current skid, hasn't dropped six in a row since March 22-31, 2003.
Predators All-Star Kimmo Timonen missed Saturday's game and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. He is Nashville's leading scorer among defensemen with nine goals and 29 assists.