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Predators embrace adversity with eye toward playoffs

Injuries, inconsistent play among hurdles for Nashville this season

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- The Nashville Predators are experiencing something this season they rarely dealt with last season on their way to the Presidents' Trophy: adversity.

After going 53-18-11 (117 points) in 2017-18, the Predators are 37-25-5 following a 5-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place on Friday.

Despite having more losses this season than they had all of last season, when they were defeated by the Jets in seven games in the Western Conference Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, defenseman Roman Josi said their ups and downs may not be a bad thing.

"Definitely it's good for a team to go through some adversity," said Josi, who's second on the Predators with 51 points (14 goals, 37 assists) in 67 games behind center Ryan Johansen (54). "We definitely have gone through some this year and we're still obviously working on some things, but it tests the team and you'll face some of that in the playoffs, too, so it's not always (bad)."


[RELATED: Jets defeat Predators in battle for first place in Central]


Although a repeat of the Presidents' Trophy is unlikely -- Nashville is 23 points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, winning the Central Division is not a sure thing either. The Predators trail the Jets by one point, but Winnipeg has three games in hand. 

"I think our consistency is the biggest difference," Josi said. "I remember last year, we never really had a period of games where we didn't play well for any more than two or three games. We had consistency and it was always going up. This year, we've had a lot more adversity and I think the consistency is the biggest difference from last year."

After starting this season 13-3-0, the Predators have wavered between hot and cold. They had a six-game losing streak (0-5-1), Dec. 17-29, then followed it up with a 6-1-2 stretch from Dec. 31-Jan. 15.

Nashville is 6-7-1 since defeating the Florida Panthers 4-1 on Feb. 1.

Injuries to key players have been a factor.

Center Kyle Turris has been out twice, missing eight games with an undisclosed injury from Nov. 25 and Dec. 11, then 17 games with a lower-body injury from Dec. 29-Feb. 5. Forward Filip Forsberg missed 17 games with an upper-body injury from Dec. 1-Jan. 5. Forward Viktor Arvidsson missed 21 games with an upper-body injury from Nov. 12-Dec. 22, and defenseman P.K. Subban missed 19 games with an upper-body injury from Nov. 15-Dec. 22.

Subban, who scored a power-play goal against the Jets on Friday and has 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) in 48 games, said Nashville's challenges this season only enhance resilience.

Video: NSH@WPG: Subban blasts one-timer on power play

"I never think adversity is a bad thing," Subban said. "Never. Personal or as a team, adversity is a great thing. We've seen our team going through adversity and we've seen special things come out of certain players. And that's the best part about sports, seeing special things come out of players that you're not used to seeing.

"That's what we're looking for, man, and everybody in this room cares about each other and we know that guys are willing to go to those lengths to play their best hockey."

Subban said that the Predators proved that during the 2017-18 regular season.

"Last year, I don't think in the room we were focused on being a Presidents' Trophy-winning team," he said. "Our focus was that we got to the Stanley Cup Final (in 2017) and we were upset about the result. And I think everybody wanted to take a step forward from that and I think it showed during the regular season."

In 2016-17, the Predators earned the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference with 94 points before advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Today, Nashville, despite its ups and downs, appears comfortably on its way to the playoffs for a fifth straight season, 11 points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche, who are the first team outside of the playoffs entering games Saturday.

Yet the Predators, who acquried forwards Wayne Simmonds and Mikael Granlund in trades on Monday, are aware there is work to do and that the most important time of year is yet to come.

Video: Wayne Simmonds has been traded to the Predators

"There's not a lot of teams, probably only two or three in the whole League, that can say they feel perfect about where they're at," coach Peter Laviolette said. "We're not at the playoffs yet, either, so that may not hold true for those teams.

"Every day is a work in progress, trying to get something on point or keep something going in the right direction. Then 10 days from now or 12 days from now, everything could shift and we might be looking at something else we're trying to correct. That's part of the regular season. You're dealing with the ups and the downs and the injuries and everything that can be factored into a season."

Subban is certain the Predators know how to deal with all of that.

"Going through all of that and getting to the second round and losing (last season), it also opens up your eyes to the fact that, hey, you don't have to win the Presidents' Trophy to win the Stanley Cup and it's about your team and how you're playing," Subban said Friday. "It doesn't mean you don't want to win the Presidents' Trophy. It just means that the focus has to be on how we're playing and what we're doing to win hockey games."

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