The conclusion of a four-game home stand arrives this evening for the Nashville Predators, when they welcome the Anaheim Ducks to town for a Saturday night tilt. The contest will mark the first time the Ducks have visited Bridgestone Arena since Game Six of Round One during last spring's Stanley Cup Playoffs, a game Anaheim lost before falling in Game Seven back in California.
The two clubs have seen other once this season already, with the Ducks getting revenge from the postseason, topping the Preds 6-1 in Anaheim on Oct. 26.
"I think we were trying to find our way a little bit there going on a road trip and didn't get off to the start we wanted, that's for sure," winger James Neal said. "They're a team that we always play hard, a team that was looking to definitely beat us with what happened in the playoffs, so it's going to be a tough game. I think we just have to have a better effort overall is the biggest thing, and I think we're moving in the right direction and we'll have that [tonight]."
Video: The Preds web team previews tonight's contest
Things are looking up for Nashville - the team has won two in a row for the first time this season and they've collected points in five-straight games, going 3-0-2 in that stretch with their overall record at 5-5-3. Filip Forsberg leads the Preds in points with nine, all of them assists. Neal and P.K. Subban have eight points apiece, including four goals from Neal, three of which have come in the last three games. Roman Josi, Mike Ribeiro and Viktor Arvidsson each have seven points to their name and Craig Smith leads the team with five goals. Netminder Pekka Rinne has been outstanding in the month of November with a 1.36 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage.
The Ducks are 7-5-3 on the season and have points in four straight (3-0-1). Anaheim is led offensively by Corey Perry (4g-9a) and Ryan Getzlaf (1g-12a), both with 13 points. Ryan Kesler has six goals and 12 points on the season; Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano have five goals each. John Gibson is 5-4-3 in 11 starts for the Ducks and Jonathan Bernier has won his last two games for Anaheim after missing time due to injury.
The Preds held a full skate this morning at Bridgestone Arena prior to this evening's game. See a full projected lineup by clicking here.
With a rematch against a postseason foe, here are three things to watch for between the Preds and Ducks.
Video: Johansen, Weber and Jarnkrok talk homestand finale
James Neal tallied in his third consecutive game on Thursday and registered his seventh point (4g-3a) in his last six games. It took a few games for Neal to get going at the beginning of the year, but with each new puck that crosses the goal line, the confidence continues to grow.
"Of course when you're starting to score, you feel better about your game," Neal said. "I think early when they're not going in, you've got to look at your game and see if you're getting the opportunities and chances. I still had good shot totals, I was putting the puck at the net quite a bit, so when you're doing that, you have to think that eventually you're going to find the back of the net. It's been good so far in the last few games to be able to put the puck in."
Neal continues to heat up and has helped lead the Preds' offensive output during their point streak, and he's also just one assist away from 200 for his career. Look for Neal to continue that streak tonight.
The first meeting between the two clubs this season in Anaheim, a 6-1 decision in favor of the Ducks, was an anomaly of sorts for the Preds. The mid-week contest was the start to a long road trip for Nashville, and number of miscues on their side helped contribute to an easy win for the Ducks. Although the Predators have all but forgotten the game at this point, that doesn't mean there isn't something they can still apply this evening.
"A lot of their goals were created by our mistakes; I think if you take that away and don't turn the puck over for them to score goals, I think it's going to help," center Mike Ribeiro said. "I think we're playing better now than we did a few weeks ago, and I think we can still play better. Our first period [against St. Louis] was average - we can play better and I think we know it. It's a good challenge [tonight] to play against a top team like that."
Video: Laviolette on Nashville's five-game point streak
The Predators continue to trend in the right direction, and Ribeiro believes much of that stems from not only a return home to Nashville after a five-game trip, but also how the schedule has played out.
"I think it was just good timing to get some points at the end of the road trip coming back home for four games," Ribeiro said. "It's always different playing at home, and we had a chance to start with a streak here, just scratching for points every night. We're not looking too far ahead of us and not looking back. We can still get better as a team and as players and just keep playing."
No doubt being in front of their fans has helped, and the Predators would like nothing more than to round out the home stand with seven out of a possible eight points before heading back on the road next week.
When You Go:
The Predators host Hockey Fights Cancer Night at Bridgestone Arena as part of the annual League-wide initiative. Join the Preds broadcasters, coaches, Energy Team presented by Popcornoplis and players as they wear lavender to acknowledge HFC Night. Fans will have the opportunity to take part in a silent auction for the lavender pregame skate jerseys and other specialty items, with all proceeds benefiting the 365 Pediatric Research Fund at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. Be sure to stop by the Nashville Predators Foundation section on the main concourse or download the Predators App for more information.
The evening begins at 5 p.m. with a Plaza Party presented by Lee Company before the doors open at 5:30 for the 7 p.m. contest.
Take It In:
Tonight's game against the Ducks begins at 7 p.m. (CT) on Fox Sports Tennessee, with the Predators Live! pregame show kicking off at 6:30 with Willy Daunic, Stu Grimson and Lyndsay Rowley. Pete Weber and Brent Peterson call the action on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.