The final 10 weeks of the 2019-20 regular season begin tonight for the Nashville Predators, when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Bridgestone Arena. The Monday evening contest is the first of two meetings between the two clubs this season; the Preds will head to Ontario in the month of March.
The bye week and NHL All-Star Weekend have now passed, and after Preds Captain Roman Josi represented his team at the All-Star festivities in St. Louis, he and his teammates are ready to get back to work.
Nashville entered the bye week with a 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 18, a result Preds Head Coach John Hynes called an "identity win." The Predators are ready to welcome the challenge of what lies ahead in the final 35 games, and it begins tonight.
"We've seen some pretty good progress and buy in from the guys, and that's something we addressed with the team," Hynes said following Sunday's practice at Ford Ice Center Bellevue. "We have 35 games here, and we have to be a group that's really going to embrace the grind of what it takes to be able to be a playoff team."
"The playoffs, for us, start [tonight]," Preds center Nick Bonino said. "We're in a position where we obviously need to make up points. We do have games in hand, and we'll try to take advantage of those, but we had good signs [during wins against] Winnipeg and Buffalo that we can play the right way. We're trying to take what we can from those and move forward."
Prior to Sunday's practice, the Preds recalled forwards Colton Sissons and Yakov Trenin, as well as defenseman Jarred Tinordi, from Milwaukee. Sissons, who remains on Injured Reserve with a lower-body injury, practiced with the full team on Sunday for the first time since sustaining his injury in late December, but he did not take line rushes during the session.
Nashville's forward group and defensive pairs remained the same as they were during the win over Buffalo.
Video: Smith, Rinne help Predators top Sabres
Last Time Out:
Ryan Johansen tallied in the second period, and Craig Smith scored the game-winner on the power play late in the third period to give the Preds a 2-1 win over Buffalo. Pekka Rinne made 30 saves on the night for his 16th win of the season.
Josi continues to lead the Preds in scoring with 48 points, followed by Filip Forsberg with 32 points and Matt Duchene with 31. Forsberg leads the club with 16 goals; Josi and Nick Bonino have 14 tallied apiece and Calle Jarnkrok has 12.
Toronto has also gone through a coaching change this season with Sheldon Keefe taking over for Mike Babcock. The Leafs are currently four points out of a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They've lost five of their last six games, including a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Blackhawks on Jan. 18.
Auston Matthews leads the Leafs with 34 goals and 57 points, followed by Mitch Marner with 47 points and William Nylander with 43. Nylander has 22 goals on the season, John Tavares has 18 and Marner has 13. Frederik Andersen is 22-9-6 in net with a .909 save percentage.
Video: Hynes wants Preds to replicate effort vs. Sabres
The Predators are 13-9-(1)-2 all-time against the Maple Leafs, including a 5-4-(0)-1 record at Bridgestone Arena. Overall, the Predators have earned at least a point in eight of their last 11 games (6-3-2) against the Maple Leafs.
Last season, the Predators shut out the Maple Leafs in both of their two meetings. Per NHL PR, Nashville became the second team in NHL history to sweep a season series with the Maple Leafs (minimum two games) with shutout wins in each game (also: Philadelphia in 1992-93).
On Nov. 18, 2014, 15 Preds skaters reached the scoresheet, led by Taylor Beck's two goals and an assist, as Nashville tied a franchise record for goals in a game, topping Toronto 9-2 at Scotiabank Arena.
Notables Versus Toronto:
Viktor Arvidsson has points (3g-2a) in five of his last six games versus the Maple Leafs. Ryan Johansen has averaged nearly a point per game versus Toronto in his career, tallying 14 points (6g-8a) in 16 games.
Roman Josi has four points (1g-3a) in 11 career games against Toronto. Pekka Rinne has shut out the Maple Leafs in back-to-back starts. He owns a 2.22 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 12 career contests against Toronto.
Video: Turris, Forsberg preview game vs. Maple Leafs
When You Go:
Bridgestone Arena doors open at 5:30 p.m. CT ahead of tonight's 7 p.m. CT puck drop.
Watch and Listen:
Coverage for tonight's contest begins with Smashville Live on Fox Sports Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. with Lyndsay Rowley and Terry Crisp. Willy Daunic, Chris Mason and Kara Hammer have the call on the television side, while Pete Weber and Hal Gill will broadcast on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network. Pregame coverage on the radio side begins at 6 p.m. CT with Darren McFarland. For broadcast information and channel locations throughout the country, click here.
If the Predators are playing hockey, you can count on the game being on at Preds Approved Bars & Restaurants. Locations throughout Tennessee may be seen by clicking here.
Listen to a Live Radio Feed (only active during the game broadcast window).
Watch a Live Stream of the game on the Fox Sports Go App or Watch on NHL.TV