After a thrilling overtime victory on Tuesday, the Nashville Predators will look to complete a short, but successful home stand tonight, when they host the Boston Bruins at Bridgestone Arena. It's the first of two meetings between the Eastern and Western Conference opponents; the Preds will ship up to Boston at the end of March.
A goal from Calle Jarnkrok at 4:58 of overtime on Tuesday propelled the Preds to a 2-1 victory over Vancouver and gave them their first home win since Dec. 13. Nashville entered Wednesday night's action with 43 points, one point below Los Angeles for the final Wild Card spot in the West.
Ryan Johansen continues to lead Nashville in scoring with 29 points, followed by a three-way tie for second, held by Mike Fisher, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg, who have 25 points each. James Neal, Nashville's leading goal-scorer with 14, remains on Injured Reserve. Fisher has 11 goals on the season and Arvidsson has tallied 10 times, while forward Austin Watson has goals in consecutive games for the first time in his career. Goaltender Pekka Rinne, who stopped 29 shots on Tuesday, is 15-11-6 in net.
The Bruins (22-17-5) have points in three straight, including a 5-3 win over St. Louis on Tuesday. Brad Marchand is Boston's leading point getter with 38 in 44 games, including 15 goals. David Pastrnak leads the club with 19 goals and is second in points with 31. Former Blues Captain David Backes has found the back of the net 11 times this season. Tuukka Rask is 21-9-3 in net for Boston with a 1.97 goals-against average.
Video: The Preds aim for a perfect home stand vs. Bruins
Morning Update: Viktor Arvidsson, who missed Wednesday's practice, took part in an optional morning skate on Thursday. James Neal and P.K. Subban (who are both on Injured Reserve with upper-body injuries) also participated.
Forward Derek Grant, who was claimed on waivers yesterday, skated with the group prior to tonight's tilt versus Boston. Defenseman Alexandre Carrier was recalled from Milwaukee (AHL) this morning.
Nashville's projected lineup may be seen here.
As the Preds go for a perfect home stand, here are three things to watch for:
41 Down, 41 to Go:
The Predators crossed the halfway point of the season on Tuesday by winning their first overtime game of the campaign, a satisfying result to a first half that has seen its share of blemishes. Talk to any of the players or Head Coach Peter Laviolette and they'll share the same sentiment - the group is not where they want to be.
But as Ryan Johansen said recently, it doesn't do any good to dwell on the past. Nashville now has an opportunity to build off of an overtime win and get themselves back to where they believe they can be in the standings.
"I think winning does build confidence and the wins have been harder to come by this year than they have in the past," Laviolette said. "We have to continue to work to string things together and try to build off of [what we've done recently]."
Video: Ekholm, Zolnierczyk and Grant talk Bruins vs. Preds
Perhaps it isn't the most likely combination, but the line of Mike Fisher centering Colton Sissons and Austin Watson has done well for the Preds since being put together on the team's recent road trip. Sissons recorded a hat trick last Thursday at Tampa Bay and Watson has scored in consecutive games for the first time in his career. Not only have they shown offensive capabilities - combined with Fisher's 11 goals - but the defensive prowess each possesses is higher than most at their position.
The result is a line that Laviolette can use in any situation. Keep an eye on how the group is utilized tonight with the last change privileges on home ice.
Video: Laviolette comments on Subban joining morning skate
The Predators know what to expect when they see a team like Chicago or St. Louis on the schedule. When facing a team like Boston, an Eastern Conference opponent the Preds only see twice per season, the familiarity may not be the same, but the club is expecting much of what they're accustomed to seeing in the Central.
"You maybe don't know those teams as well as you do in the Western Conference where you play teams a lot more, but we know how Boston plays," Josi said. "They're a physical team, they have a lot of big guys that play a physical game, and it's going to be one of those games like against St. Louis or Winnipeg, a heavy game."
When You Go:
Doors to Bridgestone Arena will open at 5 p.m. CT tonight prior to a 7 p.m. faceoff. Students who purchase Subway Student Rush Night tickets are invited to enter the arena at 5 p.m. for half-off drink specials that run until 6:30 p.m. The Nashville Predators Foundation is hosting a feature charity drive tonight for The Journey Home, asking fans to make donations of winter clothing, such as hats, gloves and warm socks.
Take It In:
Tonight's game can be seen on Fox Sports Tennessee, beginning with Predators Live! at 6:30 p.m. CT. On the radio dial, 102.5 The Game and the Preds Radio Network carries the action, complete with pre- and postgame shows beginning at 6 p.m.