After completing a perfect, three-game home stand, the Nashville Predators will look to keep the magic going as they head to the Northeast for a back-to-back, beginning tonight in Brooklyn against the New York Islanders. It's the first of two meetings between the clubs this season; the Preds will host the Islanders on April 4, Nashville's final home game of the regular season.
The Predators are playing some of their best hockey of the season with 13 goals in their last three games, including a 7-2 rout of San Jose on Saturday night. Colton Sissons and James Neal each scored twice in the outing and Pekka Rinne collected his 30th win of the season, the sixth time he's hit the 30-win plateau.
Ryan Johansen continues to lead the Preds in scoring with 57 points - including 45 helpers - followed by Viktor Arvidsson with 55 points and Filip Forsberg with 54. Forsberg's 29 goals lead the team, followed by Arvidsson at 28 and Neal with 23 on the season. Rinne has gone 30-16-8 for the Preds and has won his last five contests; Juuse Saros owns an 8-7-3 mark this season.
The Islanders (35-27-12) fell 2-1 to Boston on Saturday but had points in three straight before that, as they continue to battle for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. John Tavares leads New York with 65 points and is tied for the team lead in goals with 28, along with Anders Lee. Josh Bailey has 51 points on the campaign and Lee has 45 points. Thomas Greiss is 25-17-5 in goal for the Islanders and Jaroslav Halak has recently returned to the team, owning a 7-8-5 record overall.
Video: Thomas Willis preview tonight's game in New York
Update: Mike Fisher, who has missed the last two games with an lower-body injury, returned to practice on Sunday, but is not expected to play tonight. Here is a look at Nashville's projected lineup.
As the Predators look for their fourth consecutive win, here are three things to watch for:
"One Tough Road Trip"
Just as the Predators continue to push to secure their spot in the postseason, their opponent tonight - and on Tuesday as well - is just as desperate. The Islanders currently sit two points behind Boston for the final Wild Card spot in the East, and the Preds will face both of them over the next 48 hours. Nashville has been playing some of their best hockey of the season, and this short excursion should provide two of their toughest tests to date.
"In the area that we are in the standings, there is not a lot of losing going on, and we are just trying to keep pace right now," Preds Head Coach Peter Laviolette said after Saturday's win. "These games are important. We are headed out for one tough road trip right now, probably the toughest of the year. Seventy games ago, we weren't calling this the toughest road trip of the year, but based on where those two teams are at right now, we have our work cut out for us."
When Preds Captain Mike Fisher went down with a lower-body injury last week, Colton Sissons slid up to take his place between Colin Wilson and Craig Smith. All Sissons has done with the opportunity is score three goals in his last two games, a key element in Nashville's recent success.
Laviolette believes Sissons was already playing with an abundance of confidence before the move, and that level has risen tenfold in the recent period of time. If the trio remains intact, look to see if they can continue their hot streak.
One at a Time:
The Predators know where they are in the standings - it's not as if they don't look, especially at this time of the year - but they've put extra emphasis on facing things one day, one game at a time. After falling to Carolina roughly a week ago - a desperate team the Preds felt they may have underestimated - Nashville appears to have learned a lesson as evidenced by their last home stand.
Tonight in Brooklyn, the Predators will undoubtedly be facing a similar situation as the one in Raleigh, and if they want to extend their win streak, a nearly mistake-free outing will likely be needed.
Take It In:
Tonight's game from Barclays Center comes with a 6 p.m. CT puck drop, with pregame coverage beginning on Fox Sports Tennessee at 5:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.