After a three-game trip, the Nashville Predators return to Bridgestone Arena tonight for the second of just five home games during the month of January. The Preds will host the Vancouver Canucks for the first of three meetings this season, all of which will take place over the next 29 days.
Nashville is coming off a 1-2-0 road trip that saw them defeat Tampa Bay before falling to Florida, and most recently Chicago, on Sunday evening. The Hawks prevailed 5-2 at United Center with Mattias Ekholm and Austin Watson scoring for Nashville, before Chicago took the lead late in the third and added two empty netters prior to the final horn.
The Predators were without forwards Viktor Arvidsson (upper-body, day-to-day) and Colin Wilson (lower-body, day-to-day) on Sunday. Winger James Neal remains out of the lineup with an upper-body injury and is on Injured Reserve, as is defenseman P.K. Subban. Nashville did not practice on Monday after returning home.
Ryan Johansen continues to lead the team in scoring with 29 points, including 22 assists, followed by Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg with 25 points each. Mike Fisher has 24 points on the season; Mike Ribeiro has 22. Neal is Nashville's leading goal scorer with 14; Fisher has 11 and Arvidsson has 10. Pekka Rinne is 14-11-6 in net for the Preds.
Vancouver (20-19-3) had won six in a row before falling 3-1 to Calgary on Sunday evening. Bo Horvat leads the team with 13 goals and 29 points, followed by Henrik Sedin with 26 points and Daniel Sedin and Sven Baertschi with 23 points apiece. Ryan Miller is 12-10-1 in net for the Canucks; Jacob Markstrom is 8-9-2.
Video: Preds face Canucks for first of three in 29 days
Morning Update: Viktor Arvidsson (day-to-day; upper-body) and James Neal (Injured Reserve; upper-body) participated in the Predators morning skate, but did not take line rushes with the forwards. Nashville's projected lineup may be seen here.
As the Preds look to get back on track at home, here are three things to watch for:
Filling the Void:
Every team goes through injury issues at some point in the season, and the Preds are dealing with it now. A number of players have found themselves on the injured list as of late, in what seems like a player going down almost every night. Forwards Colin Wilson, Viktor Arvidsson, James Neal and Miikka Salomaki, as well as defenseman P.K. Subban, all missed Sunday's game, forcing the Preds to call in reinforcements.
Still, even with the roster banged up, the rest of the Preds weren't making excuses after Sunday's loss.
"We need guys to step up, and I feel like I'm a guy looked at to generate some, so I'm frustrated in myself for not creating anything on offense tonight," center Ryan Johansen said Sunday. "It's about finding ways to get results, and it doesn't matter who's out. We have a lot of good, young players in here... [Pekka] gave us a chance to win tonight, and we weren't able to."
Video: Smith, Bitetto and others preview Canucks vs. Preds
Oh, We're Halfway There:
The Preds play game No. 41 of the 2016-17 season this evening, the halfway point of an 82-game campaign. Nashville was in a similar spot last season, finding themselves with a 19-14-7 record through 40 games, compared to 17-16-7 this season. It took until the end of January, but last year's club found their stride and eventually went on a run that saved their season.
The similarities are there, and there is still plenty of time left for this season's team to go on a streak of their own. That doesn't necessarily make it any easier for the current Preds to stomach their current standing through 40 outings, but they know it won't do them much good to sit back and think about what could've been.
"Like anything in life, if you dwell on stuff and wake up each morning worried about the past, that's not going to do you any good," Johansen said. "It's frustrating at the moment right now, but tomorrow's a new day. We go back home, hopefully find some success there and just hopefully get back on the right track. That's all we can worry about."
No. 2,000 Behind the Mic:
There will be a milestone celebrated at Bridgestone Arena this evening, starring an individual who makes his living high above the ice and behind a microphone.
The Voice of the Predators, Pete Weber, will call his 2,000th career game in the NHL this evening, a mark that spans five decades during time spent with the Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, and of course, the Preds since Day One. Whether you see him roaming the concourse or want to drop him a line on Twitter @petewebersports, be sure to salute one of the all-time greats in sports broadcasting on his achievement.
Video: Laviolette explains what he wants to see vs. Canucks
When You Go:
It's a Guaranteed Win Night in Smashville, with each fan receiving a winning scratch-off ticket upon entry into Bridgestone Arena. Tonight's grand prize is an outdoor fireplace courtesy of Ashbusters Chimney Service. Doors to the arena open at 5:30 p.m. CT.
Take It In:
Tonight's game begins at 7 p.m. CT and can be seen on Fox Sports Tennessee, beginning with the Predators Live! pregame show at 6:30 p.m. Willy Daunic, Stu Grimson and Lyndsay Rowley handle television duties, while Pete Weber - who is slated to call his 2,000th game in the NHL - and Brent Peterson have the call on the Preds Radio Network.