After a weekend away from the rink with the NHL All-Star Break in play, the Nashville Predators returned to the ice in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night looking for at least a point in their sixth consecutive game.
But a poor second period, in which the Penguins scored three times against the Preds, sunk Nashville in their first game of the "unofficial second half" of the season. However, a blip on the radar doesn't take away from the fact the Predators are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and are now tasked with a three-game home stand over the next seven days.
"It's one of those games where that type of team, you can't [give them chances] and we didn't play well for part of the second and it killed us," Captain Mike Fisher said of Tuesday's game. "That was the difference in the game, and you just can't let that happen going forward. We'll learn from it and just be better going forward."
The Preds could get some help sooner rather than later, with defenseman Roman Josi hitting the ice with his teammates for the third-straight day. Josi, who remains on Injured Reserve with an upper-body injury, participated fully in Wednesday's practice at Bridgestone Arena and feels as though things continue to move in a positive direction.
"I'm feeling better, getting better and better each day, so I feel like the progression is going the right way," Josi said. "I can't tell for sure when I'm going to play again, but like I said, it's been good. I feel a lot better and been trying to progress each day, so we'll see, hopefully be back [in the lineup] soon."
Whenever Josi does come back, it would help the Preds on the defensive side of the game, an area Head Coach Peter Laviolette would like to see improvement in the coming days.
"We've generated lots of chances, I think it's more on the other side, just defensively making sure that we're limiting the opposition," Laviolette said. "Chances have been high both ways, so we're getting our looks, but we have to continue to play a smarter game."
As it was on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, that mindset will be tested on Thursday when the Preds host Edmonton, the second meeting with the Oilers in less than two weeks. Led by Connor McDavid, Edmonton played a fast, physical game against Nashville that the Preds ultimately won in a shootout.
"We have to play a tight game," Laviolette said. "They're a fast team, skilled and dangerous, and making sure we do the right things from a defensive standpoint, the right things with the puck at the right time will help keep things in check from their offense."
The Predators will enter the final two full months of the regular season Thursday with a chance to extend their home point streak to six games and avoid the "mess" - as it's been called - below them in the standings, and it'll start with replicating an effort they've seen on a rather consistent basis as of late.
"We played really well [against Edmonton] and we have to play that type of hockey game," Fisher said. "Using our speed and physicality; that was a physical game and we have to be ready for it tomorrow, too."