The Nashville Predators are in Vancouver tonight to begin a Western Canada swing, as they continue their five-game road trip. It's the second meeting in a week between the two clubs - the Preds and Canucks met last Tuesday in Nashville, with the home club coming away with a 2-1 overtime victory.
The Predators have won three consecutive games for the first time since November and are in search of their first four-game win streak of the season. Nashville is coming off a 3-2 comeback win over Colorado on Saturday afternoon, with new Preds acquisition Cody McLeod scoring against his former team and playing a large role in the win. Mike Fisher and Filip Forsberg completed the comeback to give the Preds their fourth win over the Avalanche this season.
Vancouver native Ryan Johansen continues to lead the Preds in scoring with 30 points, followed by Forsberg with 27 points on the season. Fisher has 26 points, including 12 goals, and Viktor Arvidsson has 25 points. Nashville's leading goal scorer, James Neal, returned on Saturday from injury and has 14 on the season. Pekka Rinne has gone 16-11-6 in net for the Predators.
The Canucks (20-19-6) are currently in the midst of a four-game skid, but still have one point in each of their last three outings. Bo Horvat paces the Canucks with 13 goals and 30 points, followed by Henrik Sedin with 28 points and his twin brother, Daniel, with 25 points. Brandon Sutter has 12 goals this season; Daniel Sedin, Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund have 11 goals apiece. Ryan Miller, whom the Preds defeated last week, is 12-10-3.
On Tuesday morning, the Preds assigned forward Kevin Fiala to Milwaukee of the AHL and placed defenseman Petter Granberg on Injured Reserve. In addition, Nashville claimed defenseman Brad Hunt on waivers from St. Louis. In nine games with the Blues this season, Hunt has one goal and four assists.
"He's a good player," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Hunt. "He's a good offensive defenseman, he'll be joining us shortly here, but a lot of it is just guys are banged up so we feel like we've got a good player who can help us."
If Hunt doesn't play for the Preds tonight, it could bring the NHL debut of defenseman Alexandre Carrier.
Video: Preds aim for four-straight wins in game vs. Canucks
Morning Update: Colin Wilson, Roman Josi (must miss at least the next two games) and P.K. Subban remain on Injured Reserve. Subban participated in Tuesday's morning skate (and was alongside Mattias Ekholm during Monday's practice). Wilson also took to the ice for the first time since suffering a lower-body injury.
The Predators assigned Kevin Fiala to Milwaukee (AHL) and placed Petter Granberg on Injured Reserve today. The club also claimed defenseman Brad Hunt on waivers from the Blues.
See Nashville projected lineup here.
As the Predators look to continue their road success north of the border, here are three things to watch for:
McLeod Makes a Difference:
Cody McLeod may not come within an assist of a Gordie Howe hat trick every game, but he certainly has the capability to do so. The rugged winger scored in his first game with the Preds on Saturday, plus he got into a scrap with Jarome Iginla, instantly earning the respect of his new teammates.
Laviolette used McLeod for more than 10 minutes, including time on the power play, showing the versatility of the forward, and the Preds will hope for more as the trip continues tonight in Vancouver.
"We were looking for his game; he's an up-and-down guy, and if the opposition's jersey is in front of [him], he's going to hit it," Laviolette said. "His goal is a perfect example of how he gets his goals, and he's an up-and-down guy that bangs and crashes the net and that's what we're looking for."
Nashville has won three in a row, and as they look for their longest win streak of the season tonight, they'll have to continue building on what they've done in their last few outings. So what has led to the recent success?
"I think we're bringing a lot of energy," defenseman Anthony Bitetto said. "I think we're having a fun attitude with it. It was a big couple wins, gutsy wins we called them, late in games, a comeback in Colorado, so I think all those things are coming together. Once we get all our pieces back and find that consistency that we're looking to find, I think we'll be fine."
Never Stop Improving:
Six points in their last three games looks good on paper, but the Predators admit they know they can be playing much better than they have been. Even so, it's a good sign that they're finding ways to win games, even if they feel they're not at the top of theirs at the moment. Look to see if Nashville can continue to ramp up their efforts tonight.
"We're not playing perfect hockey right now; we need to polish up a few things," Johansen said. "But we just found ways to come out on top, and they're character wins, which are really important this time of year. You have to find ways to get results, and we've won three in a row by just sticking with the game plan and trying our best for 60 minutes. The effort's been great, but there's definitely room for improvement."
Take It In:
Tonight's game comes with a 9 p.m. CT start time and can be seen on Fox Sports Tennessee, beginning with Predators Live! at 8:30 p.m. Willy Daunic, Stu Grimson and Lyndsay Rowley have the call on the television side; Pete Weber and Chris Mason will be on the airwaves on the Predators Radio Network.