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Game Day: Preds vs. Canucks

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

(34-21-13) Nashville Predators vs. Vancouver Canucks (26-28-12)
  9 P.M. CT | Rogers Arena | #NSHvsVAN
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game


The Nashville Predators make their final stop in British Columbia this season, as they take on the Canucks from Rogers Arena in Vancouver. It's the fourth game of Nashville's current five-game trip, with the Preds holding a 2-0-1 record thus far, including a 3-2 overtime loss on Wednesday night in Calgary.

With the OT loss on Wednesday, the Preds extended their franchise record to points in 14-straight games (9-0-5 record). Nashville has not lost in regulation since Feb. 9, 2016. The club has allowed two goals or fewer on nine occasions during the stretch, shutting out the opposition three times.

Nashville's success against Canadian franchises also continues, with a 12-1-4 record against them, or 28 of a possible 34 points in the standings this season.

Forward Viktor Arvidsson now has points in two-consecutive games (3a) and seven points in his last nine contests (2g-5a). Arvidsson is one of five Swedish-born players on the Predators roster, all of whom have recorded at least one point on the season. In fact, three of the Top 10 highest scorers for Nashville all hail from Sweden, including Filip Forsberg, who currently leads the team with 52 points (28g-24a). Swedish-born players on Nashville's roster have accounted for 29.9 percent of the team's goals this season, 55 goals (65 assists, 120 points).

Center Mike Ribeiro surpassed the 45-point mark for the 12th consecutive season earlier this month – a span that goes back to the 2003-04 season. Among all active NHL players, he is the only skater to have at least 45 points in each of his last 12 seasons and is one of five players to have at least 40 points each campaign in that same span of time. Ribeiro joins Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Joe Thornton, and Henrik Zetterberg as the only players to accomplish the feat.

Head Coach Peter Laviolette coached his 150th game as a member of the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night and has posted an 81-46-23 record (.617) in that span. Laviolette led the Nashville Predators to a 47-25-10 record in his first season and has a 34-21-13 mark so far in 2015-16. Should the Preds win tonight in Vancouver, Laviolette will cross the .600 point percentage mark for the season, ranking him among his personal-best coaching record.

Forsberg's 28 goals and 52 points are tops on the club, followed by Ribeiro and defenseman Roman Josi, who have 47 points apiece. James Neal's 23 goals are second on the team, to go along with 41 points and Captain Shea Weber has 17 goals and 42 points from the backend. Pekka Rinne is 27-18-10 between the pipes for the Preds; Carter Hutton is 7-2-3 on the season.

Neal is on a six-game point streak against Vancouver (3g-5a), while Mike Fisher has points in three straight versus the Canucks (2g-3a). Colin Wilson has five points in his last three games against Vancouver (3g-2a).

The Sedin twins lead the Canucks in scoring; Daniel is first with 25 goals and 56 points, followed by Henrik with 48 points. Jannik Hansen has 19 goals and 32 points; Radim Vrbata and Sven Baertschi have 13 goals each. Ryan Miller is 14-20-8 on the season; Jacob Markstrom has a 11-8-4 record in net. Vancouver topped Arizona 3-2 on Wednesday and are 4-6-0 in their last 10 outings.

Tonight is the second of three meetings this season between the two clubs, with the Preds beating the Canucks in Vancouver by a 2-1 final on Jan. 26. Rinne has not lost a game in regulation to the Canucks since April 15, 2013, having posted a 3-0-1 record in that span. In three of those four contests, Rinne has allowed just one goal, posting a .950 save percentage or higher. All-time, Nashville has a 24-31-8 record, including a 12-18-1 mark at Rogers Arena.

Arvidsson Finding His Game:

Almost one year ago to the day, forward Viktor Arvidsson was making his NHL debut for the Nashville Predators. The Swede would skate in six contests for the club during his first call-up, becoming one of only a handful of 2014 NHL Draft picks to log their initial minutes in the League mere months after being selected.

Arvidsson has already been up and down between the AHL and NHL a few times since March of last year, continuing to acclimate to the small ice rink and physical style of North American hockey, and recently, something seems to have clicked for the 22-year-old.

“I think he’s showing a little bit of confidence right now with the way he’s skating,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Arvidsson following the team’s morning skate in Vancouver. “He’s not a big guy, so he’s really competitive in order to find some success. He likes to shoot the puck, he’s got good speed and I think his speed and competitiveness, give him a chance to get his shot off and create offense. He’s been really noticeable for us.”  

Saturday night’s matchup versus the Vancouver Canucks will be Arvidsson’s 43rd NHL contest in 2015-16, and the winger says he believes he’s starting to find the consistency in his game that he’s been pursuing. The fourth-round selection in 2014 said all that’s written and discussed about the difficult transition from European hockey to North America is merited. It’s an arduous transition.

“I think it’s a huge step. It’s a completely different game, it’s so much more intense and you don’t have nearly the same amount of time like you have in Europe,” Arvidsson said. “It’s a big transformation to make, and you have to have patience and be ready for that [process].

“Back in my hometown (Skelleftea, Sweden), we have a lot of guys that have played in the NHL for a few years, and I learned from them. They taught me stuff when I was still back home, and how it is to play here. When I came up here, I had [Calle] Jarnkrok, [Mattias] Ekholm and [Filip] Forsberg, that’s been huge for me to get used to the team and everything. It’s been really good.”

That Swedish connection is readily apparent on the Predators roster. Nashville boasts five players in their nightly lineup that hail from the European country with a population of 9.6 million. Three of the Preds Top 10 scorers are Swedish, and with seven points in his last nine games, Arvidsson is beginning to flirt with becoming that fourth member.

“I’m feeling a lot more comfortable and consistent, especially up here in the NHL,” Arvidsson said. “When the team is going good, that usually means individuals are going good as well. It’s been a really good stretch of games here.” 


Projected Lineups:

Nashville Predators:

Forwards
Calle Jarnkrok Ryan Johansen James Neal
Filip Forsberg Mike Ribeiro Craig Smith
Miikka Salomaki Mike Fisher Viktor Arvidsson
Colin Wilson Colton Sissons Austin Watson
Defense
Roman Josi Shea Weber
Anthony Bitetto Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm Petter Granberg

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Goaltenders: Pekka Rinne is the projected starter in net after leaving Saturday's morning skate first. Carter Hutton is expected to serve as the backup.

Extra: (D) Barret Jackman, (F) Gabriel Bourque (IR; upper-body), (F) Eric Nystrom (IR; lower-body), (F) Paul Gaustad


Vancouver Canucks:

The Canucks held an optional morning skate on Saturday, the below lineup is based on players used in recent games.


Forwards
Daniel Sedin Henrik Sedin Jake Virtanen
Sven Baertschi Markus Granlund Radim Vrbata
Alexandre Burrows Bo Horvat Derek Dorsett
Jared McCann Linden Vey Emerson Etem
Defense
Dan Hamhuis Yannick Weber
Ben Hutton Luca Sbisa
Matt Bartkowski Alex Biega

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Goaltenders: Ryan Miller is the projected starter in net with Jacob Markstrom serving as the backup.

Extra: (F) Brandon Prust, (F) Adam Cracknell, (F) Christopher Tanev, (F) Brandon Sutter, (D) Alexander Edler, (F) Jannik Hansen, (F) Brendan Gaunce, (D) Nikita Tryamkin

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