The final week of the 2016-17 season has arrived, and with their playoff spot clinched, the Nashville Predators are set to host the New York Islanders in their regular-season home finale. The two clubs got together last week in Brooklyn with the Preds defeating the Isles by a 3-1 count.
Nashville is coming off a back-to-back weekend that saw them defeat Minnesota 3-0, before falling 4-1 to St. Louis on Sunday. Even with the loss to the Blues, Arizona defeated Los Angeles late Sunday night to punch the Predators ticket to the postseason. The Preds will now jockey for positioning over the coming week to determine exactly who they'll face in Round One.
The Predators top line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson will likely close out the season as the top three scorers, with 61, 58 and 57 points, respectively. Johansen's 47 assists are tops on the team and Forsberg leads in goals with 31, followed by Arvidsson with 29. Johansen is one helper away from setting a franchise record for assists by a centerman in a single season and Forsberg is just two goals from tying his own franchise record for goals in one campaign. Goaltender Pekka Rinne has gone 31-18-8 on the season, and Juuse Saros is 9-8-3.
The Islanders (37-29-12) remain in the postseason race, but will have to get there without Captain John Tavares, who is week-to-week with a lower-body injury. New York's leading scorer, Tavares is followed by Josh Bailey with 52 points and Anders Lee with 48. Lee has tallied 31 times this season; Andrew Ladd has potted 21. Thomas Greiss has amassed a 25-18-5 record in goal; Jaroslav Halak is 9-9-5.
Video: Preds host Isles on Fan Appreciation Night
Update: James Neal (day-to-day; upper-body injury) and Yannick Weber (day-to-day; upper-body injury) both participated in the club's optional morning skate, but neither are expected to play tonight. Click here for a look at Nashville's projected lineup.
As the Preds close out their home schedule with the postseason in sight, here are three things to watch for:
30 x 2:
Filip Forsberg has already hit the 30-goal mark this season, and his linemate Viktor Arvidsson has three more games to do the same. Already obliterating career highs in every offensive category this season, Arvidsson hopes to join Forsberg at 30 and create the third pair of 30-goal scorers in franchise history.
Perhaps one of Arvidsson's linemates could set him up for a tally - Forsberg and Johansen are both riding three-game point streaks.
Video: Sissons and Smith preview Preds' home finale
Getting a Look:
Now that the Preds have clinched a playoff spot, Head Coach Peter Laviolette alluded to the fact he may give some different players another look before determining which lineup he'll go with on night one of the postseason. Forward Miikka Salomaki, who has missed all but two games this season with various injuries, is a name Laviolette mentioned as one who may see some playing time soon.
"He was a big part of our team, and he had a tough year with injuries," Laviolette said. "You have to get [to the playoffs] before you win it. You have to get there. So the priority was to keep putting - what we felt was - the best lineup with regard to health, conditioning and timing on the ice to try to be successful. [This last week] might give me an opportunity to look at a player or two to see if they can have an impact as the playoffs approach."
Video: Laviolette says Preds want to fine tune their game
Keep It Up:
The last week of the regular season will also give Nashville the opportunity to work on all aspects of their game - and for the most part, Laviolette likes what he's been seeing of late.
"I think we just have to keep playing the way we've been playing," Laviolette said. "For the last, I don't know how long, we've been playing good hockey. Obviously, the last couple of games haven't had the result we've wanted, but still we played some good hockey. We want to keep that going."
Confidence going into the postseason is of paramount importance, and this week provides a chance to grow that even further.
Video: Preds thank fans for incredible support during season
When You Go:
Tonight's home finale marks Fan Appreciation Night in Smashville, highlighted by the annual Shirts Off Our Backs presentation with select lucky fans receiving the jersey of a Preds player after the game. Great prizes, including a two-year lease on a 2017 Nissan Rogue, will be awarded to fans throughout the night as the organization gives thanks to the Loyal Legion. The fun begins with a Plaza Party presented by Lee Company at 5 p.m. CT on the Arena plaza.
It's also Social Media Night at Bridgestone Arena, featuring Preds players wearing social-media-themed jerseys in warmups and interactive opportunities for fans via the Preds social media platforms. Fans are encouraged to post using #SmashvilleSocial throughout the night, as some posts will be displayed on the megatron during the game.
Take It In:
Puck drop for tonight's game is at 7 p.m. CT with pregame coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Tennessee and 6 p.m. CT on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.