A triple helping of Thanksgiving-week hockey begins tonight as the Nashville Predators return home from the road to host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena. The Preds are coming off a 3-1 loss to St. Louis on Saturday night, seeing them finish their three-game trip with a 1-2-0 mark and a 7-7-3 record overall.
James Neal and Filip Forsberg share the team scoring lead with 12 points apiece; Neal's eight goals and Forsberg's 11 assists are tops on the club in their respective categories. Defenseman P.K. Subban has three goals and 11 points on the season, followed by Mike Ribeiro and Viktor Arvidsson with 10 points each. Pekka Rinne, who suffered his first regulation loss of the month on Saturday night, is 5-1-2 in November.
Tampa Bay (12-6-1) is coming off a 3-0 shutout win over Philadelphia on Saturday. The team has won four consecutive games, outscoring their opponents 15-4 in the process. Nikita Kucherov leads the team in points in 22, including nine goals. Steven Stamkos, who is second on the team with 20 points, is out of the lineup for the Lightning after undergoing knee surgery last week. Forward Valtteri Filppula and defenseman Victor Hedman have 13 points each on the season. Goaltender Ben Bishop is 7-5-0 in 12 starts; Andrei Vasilevskiy has gone 5-1-1.
Video: The Preds Web Team has a preview of tonight's game
As the Preds face one of the League's best, here are three things to watch for:
Video: Neal and Watson on the Preds' home point streak
After a disappointing end to last season, veteran center Mike Ribeiro once again finds himself among the Preds scoring leaders as he has throughout most of his career, no matter the organization. Ribeiro scored the lone goal for the Preds in Saturday's 3-1 loss and has now scored in consecutive games for the first time since the end of the 2014-15 season. Combined with his three goals, Ribeiro's seven assists through 17 games have shown the 36-year-old can still contribute on a regular basis.
The Lightning will be without their best player, and one of the best players in the League, in Steven Stamkos tonight after the All-Star center underwent knee surgery last week. The loss of Stamkos is clearly detrimental to Tampa Bay's offensive aspirations, but according to the stat sheet, forward Nikita Kucherov has produced just as consistently as Stamkos has this season, tied for the League lead with 22 points. Look to see who the Preds choose to match against Kucherov and whether or not they can keep him off the score sheet.
Video: Laviolette previews a three-game homestand
Work For Your Turkey:
The Preds return home this week for a three-game set, and they'll be hoping to replicate their effort during their last home stand that saw them collect seven of a possible eight points. Of course there are never any easy games in the NHL, but it'll be a tough week for the Preds, starting with one of the League's top teams in Tampa Bay, followed by two Central Division matchups against Dallas and Winnipeg to round out the week. Entering Sunday's games, all three of Nashville's opponents sit in the top 11 in goal scoring this season, including the Lightning, who are tied for second with 60 goals.
When You Go:
Prior to tonight's game, the Predators will hold the grand opening of the Smashville Outdoor Rink, presented by Nissan. Located right across the street from Bridgestone Arena at Walk of Fame Park, the rink will be open through February, hosting public skate sessions, adult pond hockey, learn-to-skate classes and more. The grand opening ceremony takes place at 4:30 this afternoon, with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman scheduled to be on hand for the festivities.
The grand opening will flow into a plaza party and park extravaganza at 5 p.m., with doors set to open at 5:30 for the 7 p.m. start.
Video: Preds take out Blues, and Matt Irwin goes exploring
Take It In:
Tonight's contest can be seen on Fox Sports Tennessee, starting with the Predators Live! pregame show at 6:30 with Willy Daunic, Stu Grimson and Lyndsay Rowley. Pete Weber and Brent Peterson handle radio duties on 102.5 The Game and the Preds Radio Network.