The Nashville Predators own the best record in the Western Conference, but their lack of playoff success was a concern with the postseason looming less than two months away. Those worries may be behind them after making the league's first major move prior to the trade deadline.
Two-time Stanley Cup champion Peter Forsberg is expected to make his debut for the Predators on Saturday when they host the Minnesota Wild.
Nashville (39-17-3) acquired Forsberg, a seven-time All-Star and 2003 NHL MVP, on Thursday for right wing Scottie Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent and two draft picks.
Forsberg won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 1996 and 2001, and brings much-needed playoff experience to a team that has made first-round exits the last two seasons - the only two appearances for the eight-year old franchise.
"Arguably, has there ever been a better player traded at the trade deadline than Peter Forsberg?" general manager David Poile asked on Thursday.
"My answer to that is probably not, and the price we paid was very high. We did it because we believed it was a necessary ingredient to give us that much better a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, and we were comfortable with doing that."
Forsberg leaves the Flyers - who have the worst record in the NHL - to join the Predators, who trail the Buffalo Sabres by just one point for the best record in the league.
The 33-year-old Forsberg had 11 goals and 29 assists in 40 games for the Flyers, but has been hampered by an injury to his right foot that caused him to question if this might be his final season. He has three goals and nine assists in nine games since visiting a foot specialist in Sweden during the All-Star break.
"Believe me, it has been a tough year," Forsberg said. "Not losing, that is just one part, but the foot (injury) and not being able to do my best... It's been feeling much, much better with all the added help that I have been getting. So it has been better lately, but I would like to see that myself playing good for a long time before I commit to another year."
Without Forsberg, the Predators lost to St. Louis 1-0 on Friday, and coach Barry Trotz said the hoopla surrounding the recent trade was not a distraction.
"I'm not going there because our guys handled it pretty well," Trotz said. "We're absolutely excited about having him. We're mature enough to realize that we just have to play hard."
Nashville is 1-1-1 against the Wild (31-22-5) this season, but the teams haven't played each other since Minnesota won 7-6 in a shootout on Nov. 16
That shootout loss was one of the rare defeats the Predators have suffered at the Gaylord Entertainment Center, where they have the second-best home record at 21-4-3. Nashville, which is opening a four-game homestand, has outscored opponents 38-18 in winning nine of its last 10 at home.
The Wild, meanwhile, have won seven of their last nine road games since Jan. 11 after going just 4-15-1 their first 20 games away from the Xcel Energy Center.
Minnesota lost to Vancouver 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday, but backup goaltender Niklas Backstrom had another solid game in net. He made 31 saves against the Canucks, and is 5-1-2 with a 2.22 goals-against average since starting goalie Manny Fernandez suffered a sprained left knee on Jan. 20.
Fernandez didn't make the trip to Nashville, and Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said Thursday he thought Fernandez would be out longer than originally anticipated, which was the first two to three weeks of February.
Lemaire, though, is gaining confidence in Backstrom, who has been filling in quite capably.
"He didn't need as much luck last night," Lemaire said Thursday. "Last night, to me, he was really good. He gave me confidence. He gave me more confidence than ever."
A 29-year-old rookie, Backstrom relieved Fernandez and guided the Predators to two wins this season, making 41 saves.
Marian Gaborik had a goal and an assist on Wednesday, giving him 13 goals and seven assists in 17 games since missing more than two months due to a groin injury.
Gaborik had a goal and an assist in the only game he played against the Predators this season, a 6-5 victory on Oct. 7.