After completing a nine-day, five-game road trip that brought four victories and eight points, the Nashville Predators return home to host the Buffalo Sabres at Bridgestone Arena tonight. It's the first of two meetings this season between the Preds and Sabres, with Nashville having won five of the last six outings against Buffalo.
The Predators have won three straight, including a 4-2 comeback win in Minnesota on Sunday night. Filip Forsberg scored twice in the third period and Head Coach Peter Laviolette recorded his 500th career win in the process. Nashville will be looking to win four in a row for the first time this season.
With a goal and two-assist effort on Sunday, Ryan Johansen upped his team-leading point total to 35, including 27 helpers. Forsberg is second with 31 points, followed by Viktor Arvidsson with 29 and Mike Fisher with 27. James Neal leads the club with 16 goals, followed by Forsberg with 14 and Fisher with 12. Pekka Rinne earned his 18th win of the season on Sunday night, giving him an 18-12-6 mark overall, Juuse Saros has gone 5-3-1 with .952 save percentage.
Buffalo (19-18-9) has won two straight in overtime by identical 3-2 scores, defeating Detroit and Montreal last Friday and Saturday. Kyle Okposo leads the Sabres with 14 goals and 30 points, followed by Sam Reinhart and Ryan O'Reilly with 29 points each. Evander Kane has 12 goals on the season; Reinhart, Brian Gionta and Jack Eichel have each tallied 10 times. Robin Lehner earned the last win for Buffalo, owning an 11-12-5 record this season.
Video: Two hot teams, the Preds and Sabres collide
Morning Update: Colin Wilson has been activated from Injured Reserve and could play tonight versus the Sabres. Roman Josi (IR), Petter Granberg (IR) and Miikka Salomaki (IR) were all on the ice for the Preds morning skate on Tuesday.
Nashville's projected lineup is available here.
As the Preds prepare to skate in front of their home fans for the first time in a while, here are three things to watch:
Joey and the Swedes:
Over the course of the last road trip, the Predators found consistency in their forward lines, and the top trio of Ryan Johansen centering Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg has been producing at a rapid rate. In Sunday's win against Minnesota, Johansen had three points (1g-2a), Forsberg scored twice and Arvidsson added an assist.
With Arvidsson's speed, Johansen's ability to pass or shoot and Forsberg scoring in bunches, the line has become one of the more dangerous in the League over the past few games.
Video: Preds players talk about returning home
Perhaps even more impressive than the overall production of his line - is the output from Filip Forsberg himself.
The winger has six points (5g-1a) in his last six games and an NHL-leading four game-winning goals in his last six contests. Plus, Forsberg has scored 11 goals since Dec. 19 - no other player has tallied more in that span.
Video: Laviolette wants Preds to avoid letdown after return
Home, Sweet Home:
After completing their final five-game trip of the season, the Predators will no doubt be anxious to get in front of their home crowd. Through the final 11 weeks of the regular season, Nashville will have a three-game road trip only once, with the rest broken up into one or two-game segments. That means plenty of time at home, including two this week and nine more in February.
They've already worked their way back into playoff positioning, but if Nashville can get into a groove at Bridgestone Arena, they could find themselves sitting comfortably at this time next month.
When You Go:
Tuesday nights are Guaranteed Win Nights in Smashville, with each fan receiving a winning scratch-off ticket upon entry into Bridgestone Arena. Tonight's grand prize is a $1,000 gift card from Marathon Oil, and plenty of other great prizes are up for grabs. Arena doors for the 7 p.m. CT game open at 5:30 p.m.
Take It In:
Tonight's game can be seen on Fox Sports Tennessee with Predators Live! beginning at 6:30 p.m. CT. Fans can also listen on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.