After an eight-day hiatus, the Nashville Predators are set to embark on the final two-plus months of their season, and it begins tonight in Florida against the Panthers. It's the second and final meeting between the two clubs this season; the Preds fell to the Panthers, 4-2, in Nashville back on Jan. 19.
The Predators won two-straight contests away from home leading into the NHL All-Star Break and bye week, a 4-1 victory in Colorado followed by a 2-1 triumph in Vegas. Nashville will skate in 30 games over the next 65 days as they continue their postseason push, 30 more opportunities to collect points as the intensity ramps up.
"We had a couple big road wins there heading into the break, which was great," forward Colton Sissons said. "We were struggling and had lost our confidence pretty good on the road, but we know we're better than that. To get a few of those under the belt before that break was huge."
Forwards Kyle Turris, Miikka Salomaki and Zac Rinaldo remain on Injured Reserve for the Predators. Rinaldo was the only one of those three who practiced on Thursday, and he did so sporting a non-contact jersey. Forward Colin Blackwell was recalled on Thursday and practiced with the club in Nashville.
The team will also be without forward Austin Watson who is suspended indefinitely after being placed in Stage Two of the NHL & NHLPA's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) for treatment related exclusively to his ongoing issues with alcohol abuse.
Video: Saros leads Preds to 2-1 win with 47 saves
Last Time Out:
Juuse Saros made a career-high 47 saves in a 2-1 win over the Golden Knights back on Jan. 23 before Nashville's break began. Ryan Johansen and Nick Bonino tallied in the victory, the latter of whom extended his point streak to three-straight games.
Johansen continues to lead the club with 43 points, followed by defensemen Mattias Ekholm and Roman Josi with 37 and 36 points, respectively. Viktor Arvidsson paces the club with 19 goals, Filip Forsberg has 18, while Bonino and Craig Smith have 14 apiece.
Video: Look ahead to the second half of the season
Florida is also returning from their bye week tonight after heading into the break on a three-game win streak, including a 6-2 win over San Jose on Jan. 21. Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers with 49 points, followed by Aleksander Barkov with 47 points and Mike Hoffman with 42. Hoffman is Florida's lone 20-goal scorer with 23. Roberto Luongo is 10-11-1 in net for the Panthers; James Reimer, who beat the Preds on Jan. 19, is 9-8-5.
Nashville is 13-12-(3)-1 all-time against the Panthers, including a 5-7-(1)-1 record at the BB&T Center. Overall, Nashville has earned at least a point in seven of its last 12 meetings with Florida, going 6-5-1, and the Preds have picked up a point in four of their last six road games vs. the Panthers (3-2-1).
Video: P.K. Subban talks Preds vs. Panthers
Notables Versus Florida:
Roman Josi has eight points (3g-5a) in 11 career games vs. Florida, including four points (2g-2a) in his last four contests against the Panthers. P.K. Subban has at least a point in six of his last nine games against the Panthers and in 24 career games against them has three goals and 11 assists.
Watch & Listen:
Tonight's game from the BB&T Center comes with a 6 p.m. (CT) start. Coverage on Fox Sports Tennessee begins at 5:30 p.m. with Predators Live with Willy Daunic, Chris Mason and Lyndsay Rowley. Fans may listen to the contest on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network with Pete Weber and Hal Gill on the call. 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.
Video: Preds return from nine-day break, face Panthers
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Watch a Live Stream of the game on the Fox Sports Go App or Watch on NHL.TV