Skip to main content

Predators' Neal makes return against Canucks

by Robby Stanley /

CANUCKS (23-14-3) at PREDATORS (28-9-4)


NASHVILLE -- Nashville Predators forward James Neal will return to the lineup against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena.

Neal missed the past five games because of a lower-body injury; he will play Tuesday on a line with Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher. Neal has 13 goals and 10 assists in 35 games.

"I've felt good for the last few days so it's nice to be back and skating with the guys," Neal said. "I'm feeling better so I'm looking forward to tonight."

Neal began the season on a line with rookie Filip Forsberg and center Mike Ribeiro, and the Predators relied on that line for the majority of its scoring. The scoring has been more balanced as the season has gone on, which has allowed the Predators to place Neal on the second line.

"I think we knew we had a deep team going into the season," Neal said. "It was just a matter of time before everyone started clicking. If you want to go deep in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs and you want to win games, you're going to have to have scoring from everybody. We've done a good job of that."

Nashville is 16-2-1 at home this season, the best home record in the NHL, after winning 19 home games last season. Nashville said it will put an emphasis on shooting the puck against Vancouver.

"I think just focusing on our game," Neal said. "Just getting better with everything we're trying to do out there and having a shot-first mentality and going to the net. I think when we're shooting the puck and playing with speed we're a great hockey team."

Vancouver has lost two games in a row and has scored one goal in that span. The players said they were happy with the effort against the Calgary Flames in a 1-0 loss Saturday despite not being able to score.

"Against Calgary we played pretty well but didn't get rewarded," Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa said. "We can't get frustrated. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing. I think the main focus is just to be prepared to battle. It's not going to be an easy one."

The Canucks have been a good team on the road this season, going 12-6-2 away from Rogers Arena. Sbisa said he believes playing on the road provides an extra incentive to play well.

"I think every time you go into an opponent's building, for me at least, you have that extra motivation to kind of shut their fans up and beat them in their own building," Sbisa said. "That's always something special. I think on the road there is less distractions."

Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins said the team may start Eddie Lack in goal against Nashville. Goaltender Ryan Miller missed a start against Calgary due to flu-like symptoms; Lack stopped 22 of 23 shots against Calgary.

Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne has not lost a game in regulation since Dec. 13 against the San Jose Sharks.

Here are the projected lineups:


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Radim Vrbata

Chris Higgins - Nick Bonino - Alexandre Burrows

Shawn Matthias - Brad Richardson - Zack Kassian

Derek Dorsett - Linden Vey - Jannik Hansen

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Ryan Stanton - Kevin Bieksa

Frank Corrado - Luca Sbisa

Eddie Lack

Ryan Miller

Scratched: Bo Horvat

Injured: Dan Hamhuis (groin), Yannick Weber (knee)


Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - Craig Smith

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - James Neal

Matt Cullen - Calle Jarnkrok - Olli Jokinen

Gabriel Bourque - Paul Gaustad - Taylor Beck

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Seth Jones

Anton Volchenkov - Victor Bartley

Pekka Rinne

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Viktor Stalberg

Injured: Ryan Ellis (lower body), Eric Nystrom (upper body)

Status report: Vancouver held an optional morning skate that Hamhuis and Horvat participated in. Horvat will be a game-time decision. … Nystrom participated in the morning skate but will not play.

Who’s hot: Daniel Sedin leads the Canucks with 36 points and is tied for the lead in assists (27) with his brother Henrik. … Josi has five points in the past five games and is on pace to have a career-best 54 points this season.

View More