After a 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday, the Nashville Predators flew to the Atlantic side of the state and are set to face the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center tonight. It's the first of two meetings between the clubs this season with the Preds going for their fifth consecutive road win this evening.
Colton Sissons recorded his first career hat trick in last night's win, with Ryan Ellis, Mike Fisher and Filip Forsberg also getting on the scoreboard. Goaltender Pekka Rinne got the win in net and improved to 7-0-1 all-time against Tampa Bay.
"I thought that we did a good job of trying to play a smart game on the road," Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of his team's effort last night. "In saying that, I don't think that we were as strong offensively. I know we had six goals, but as far as zone time and puck possession time and attempts and attacks at the net, we weren't as strong as we've normally been. But we had talked about making sure that the road game was good."
Video: Thomas Willis has a preview of Preds vs. Panthers
Ryan Johansen continues to the lead the Preds in scoring with 29 points, including 22 helpers. Viktor Arvidsson has 25 points, followed by Filip Forsberg with 24 and Mike Fisher with 22. Nashville's leading goal scorer, James Neal, did not play last night and is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Fisher has 11 tallies on the season and Arvidsson has 10. Rinne is 14-10-6 on the season and Juuse Saros carries a 3-2-1 mark with a .957 save percentage.
The Panthers (16-15-8) fell 4-1 to Winnipeg on Wednesday and have lost five straight on home ice. Aleksander Barkov leads the team with 27 points, followed by Jonathan Marchessault and Jaromir Jagr with 24 points each. Marchessault and Vincent Trocheck have 11 goals apiece; Barkov has nine. Roberto Luongo is 11-10-5 on the season, James Reimer has gone 5-5-3.
Morning Update: The Preds projected lineup may be seen here.
As they Preds look for another back-to-back sweep on the road, here are three things to watch:
A healthy scratch just a few games ago, Colton Sissons had himself a night on Thursday. The forward netted his first career hat trick, becoming the first player in NHL history to record his second goal of the game on an empty net and then his third with the goaltender back in the net.
Although anything is possible in this game, chances are small Sissons reproduces his previous effort tonight. However, don't underestimate the confidence a game like that can provide to a player.
Switch 'Em Up:
With James Neal out of last night's lineup due to injury, Head Coach Peter Laviolette was forced to switch up his forward lines, and it seemed to do the trick. In particular, Kevin Fiala was rewarded with a promotion to skate alongside Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, and the trio of Mike Fisher, Sissons and Austin Watson saw success as well. Keep an eye on the forward combos tonight and who stands out among the rest.
Traditionally, teams in the NHL are supposed to find success at home more often than not. But with these two teams, the opposite has been true as of late. Florida has fallen in five consecutive outings at BB&T Center, and the Preds have won four in a row away from Bridgestone Arena. Nashville also got the job done on their last back-to-back road excursion with wins in Philadelphia and New Jersey before Christmas.
Road confidence is as high as it's been all season for the Preds, and playing with a lead, which they were able to do last night, will be huge once more if they're able to get that first goal.
Take It In:
Tonight's game comes with a 6:30 p.m. CT start and can be seen on Fox Sports Tennessee, beginning with Predators Live! beginning at 6:00 p.m. Willy Daunic, Stu Grimson and Lyndsay Rowley have the call on the TV side, with Pete Weber and Brent Peterson behind the mic on the Preds Radio Network.