New level of confidence? Sure. Receiving more passes from teammates? Yes. Motivated to beat a franchise record? Definitely.
James Neal answered mostly in the affirmative on Saturday when talking about his opportunity to set a franchise record for consecutive games with a goal. The Nashville Predators forward set a personal-best mark and hit six games in a row with a score on Thursday evening against the Ottawa Senators.
In his previous six games, the 29-year-old winger has seven goals in sum and said prior to a pivotal matchup versus the rival St. Louis Blues that developing an expectation pucks will find the back of the net allows in-game confidence to grow.
"You're more confident with your shots, you feel like you're putting them in good areas to score goals and you feel like you'll score when you get the opportunities," Neal said. "When you get that confidence, it's always a good feeling. You always feel like you're on the verge of getting another one."
Linemate Ryan Johansen has assisted on each of Neal's last two goals and has found that it's wise to even force the puck toward the winger at this point.
"For example, that goal he scored in Toronto, where I just threw the puck in there for him and he had two guys on him and he found a way to get a stick on it? That's elite. I'll definitely be trying to find him [tonight]," Johansen said.
Video: NSH@TOR: Neal, Johansen combine for great goal
As for Neal's chance to set the goal-streak record, said Johansen: "A lot of good players have come through this organization, it's something cool to look back on, it's something he can use for his confidence. As his linemate, I'm always trying to find ways to get him the puck in those scoring areas. We know he's got a great shot, I guess I'll have to look for him more than ever tonight."
"It's a tough league to score in, it's been nice to tie a franchise record and have your game next to a lot of great players that have played in this organization," Neal said. "I'll see if I can get another one tonight and help the team win. It's fun to play when things are going well like this."
Video: Thomas Willis has a preview of Preds and Blues
Scoring a goal and helping the team win is the main focus for Neal and Johansen, of course. The Predators topped the Blues in Music City roughly a week ago, but with the Blues on a seven-game point streak at home (5-0-2), Nashville knows capturing points tonight will be crucial yet difficult.
"All lines, every player on our team, we were all doing the right things on the ice," Johansen said of the Preds' start to Thursday's victory. "It was a heck of a period for us. I think that's something we can really use going into this game. That we're close to how we want to play. We watched tape and looked at all the things that made us so successful, and it's good to see when everyone is on the same page. Huge, huge game, divisional rival. Big points on the table tonight. It would be really nice to go home with a win."