The Nashville Predators begin a two-game trip this afternoon by concluding a home-and-home series with the Winnipeg Jets - a noon (CT) start at MTS Centre. The Preds defeated the Jets on Friday by a 5-1 final, thanks in part to two-goal efforts from both Ryan Johansen and Colin Wilson.
Nashville has won three in a row after completing a perfect home stand and will now look for a sweep over a Central Division foe in Winnipeg.
"They're not going to be happy with the result and the way they played, so they're going to be better and we can't be comfortable with how we play," Johansen said. "We need to be focused and ready to bring that same focus and effort and find a way to get a win up in Winnipeg."
Preds forwards James Neal and Colton Sissons, as well as defenseman Ryan Ellis all missed practice on Saturday with upper-body injuries and were placed on injured reserve.On Saturday evening, Nashville recalled forwards Kevin Fiala, Frederick Gaudreau and Michael Liambas, plus defenseman Petter Granberg from Milwaukee in advance of today's game.
Filip Forsberg remains the Preds points leader with 16 on the season, including 14 assists. P.K. Subban and Ryan Johansen have 14 points each, with Johansen collecting five points (3g-2a) in his last two games. Viktor Arvidsson has six goals and 13 points, while Mike Fisher, Mike Ribeiro and Roman Josi have 12 each. Goaltender Pekka Rinne got the win on Friday and is 8-2-2 in the month of November.
Winnipeg (9-12-2) has lost five in a row, including Friday's game in Nashville. Mark Scheifele leads the club with 23 points, including 11 goals, and 2016 second-overall pick Patrik Laine is tops on the team with 12 goals. Nikolaj Ehlers is second on the team with 19 points, including 15 assists. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who started against the Preds on Friday, is 7-8-0 on the season; Michael Hutchinson is 2-4-2.
As the Preds go for the sweep in a noon matinee, here are three things to watch for:
The Predators have found their way at home - their 8-1-1 record at Bridgestone Arena shows that - but they're still looking for more consistency on the road with a 2-6-2 mark. Head Coach Peter Laviolette has pointed to Nashville's last trip, which included a 5-1 win in Ottawa and a 3-1 loss in St. Louis, as a stretch that included plenty of positives. Laviolette also mentioned during his postgame comments on Friday that the play on the road continues to be a talking point in the locker room as Nashville heads out once more.
"We played a really smart game [on Friday]; we have to play a smart game on the road and do the right things," Laviolette said. "[We need to] continue to remain disciplined, continue to remain simple with our game plan and good things can happen. It'll be a good test for us."
"Our road game hasn't been the way we want it to be and we have to play a simple game," Josi said. "I think playing simple right away [will be important]. We haven't had a 60-minute effort yet on the road; we did at home, so that's what we've got to do on the road too."
After missing 18 games with an upper-body injury, defenseman Anthony Bitetto returned to the Preds lineup on Friday night, logging 13:40 and co-leading the team with a game-high five hits. After making the team right out of camp and dressing on Opening Night, Bitetto wanted nothing more than to make a good impression again in first action since Oct. 14.
"My mindset was more just play quick and play fast to start the game, make simple plays and test the speed and kind of just get right into it," Bitetto said. "I tried to be physical early in the game, and I think I found success last night in those areas."
"It's definitely nice to have him back," Laviolette said of Bitetto. "He looks like he's skating well, he's physical - the puck bounced on him a couple times - but for the most part, I thought it was a real good showing for him coming back."
Live and Learn:
After a 5-1 win over the Jets on Friday, the Preds get another crack at the same opponent this afternoon, and although each game comes with different components, there are still some areas that led to success that the team would like to replicate in today's contest.
"Our forecheck was the best we've had all year," Bitetto said. "We had a lot of forced turnovers because of our forecheck and that led to a couple goals… That was the key, and we didn't turn the puck over last night. We defended hard and had a chance to get the puck up ice and move it quickly out of our zone."
"I think after the first, we got pucks deep and our forwards did a great job in their end forcing turnovers on the forecheck," Josi said. "That's how we created a couple goals too, so we have to do the same thing. It's always a tight game [against Winnipeg]; they're tight in the neutral zone, so we have to get it behind their D and start working on the offensive zone."
Take It In:
Today's game comes with a noon CT start in Winnipeg, beginning with the Predators Live! pregame show at 11:30 a.m. on Fox Sports Tennessee with Willy Daunic, Stu Grimson and Lyndsay Rowley. Pete Weber and Brent Peterson will call the action on 102.5 The Game and the Preds Radio Network.