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The Week Ah-Pred: Jan. 27

by Jimi Russell / Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators started off last week with a 4-1 victory on Monday night over the Dallas Stars.

After the Stars jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 4:45 into the first frame, the Preds responded with four unanswered goals from Nick Spaling and Shea Weber in the first, Roman Josi in the second, and Mike Fisher in the third.

After two days off, the Preds headed to the Pacific Northwest for back-to-back games against the Canucks and Flames.

On Thursday in Vancouver, Nashville found itself digging out of a one-goal hole again en route to a comeback victory. After a scoreless opening frame, Chris Higgins got the Canucks on the board with a tip-in goal nine minutes into the second. Vancouver would hold the lead until the 3:28 mark of the third, when Craig Smith picked up his team-leading 16th goal of the season on a nice feed from Nick Spaling. Spaling would be awarded for his solid play just nine minutes later, when he tallied the game-winning power-play goal at 12:38 of the third. The win was Nashville’s first in Vancouver since Dec. 1, 2011.

The Preds looked to carry momentum into Friday night’s tilt in Calgary, and it was Eric Nystrom who would carry the load for Nashville.

The Nystrom show began just 1:51 into the game when he drove home his eighth goal of the year. Calgary would tie the game up less than two minutes later with a power-play goal from Mark Giordano.

It was Nystrom who again put the Preds ahead 1:50 into the second period, and it took a little more than four minutes for him to complete his first career hat trick and the first for Nashville since Jan. 1, 2012. Nystrom became just the sixth active player to share the accomplishment with their hockey-playing father: Edmonton’s Sam Gagner (and his father, Dave), Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone (Greg), Minnesota’s Zach Parise (J.P.), Colorado’s Paul Stastny (Peter) and St. Louis’ Alexander Steen (Thomas).

The Preds held the 3-1 advantage going into the third period, but David Jones connected on the power play to pull the Flames back within one.

However, Nystrom had one more trick up his sleeve, as he drove to the net late in the frame and tipped home a Matt Cullen pass for his fourth goal of the game. It was the first time a Preds player has scored four goals in a game in franchise history, and just the fifth time the feat has been accomplished this season.

Calgary would battle back to tie the game with goals just 71 seconds apart late in the third. Mikael Backlund tallied the Flames third man-advantage goal of the game at 12:27, and Jones followed it up with his second of the game at 13:36.

The score would remain knotted at four through regulation and the five-minute overtime period.

In the post-overtime skills competition, Joe Colborne and Matt Cullen were both stymied in the first round. Juri Hudler got the Flames on the board in the second round, while David Legwand sailed his patented forehand-backhand move over the crossbar. With the game on the line, Devan Dubnyk stopped Lee Stempniak, before Josi skated in, faked a shot and slid a backhand attempt through countryman Reto Berra’s wickets to tie the score. With the goal, Josi became just one of two defensemen this season, and the second in franchise history, to tally two shootout goals in a season. When rookie Sean Monahan scored on his next attempt to put the Flames back on top, Head Coach Barry Trotz went back to the defensive bullpen, calling on Ryan Ellis to attempt a shot. Ellis skated in, deked Berra and went to the backhand, but just when it looked like Ellis had him beat, the lanky Swiss netminder kicked up his right leg to make a toe save, sealing the comeback win for the Flames.

The Preds would make their second stop in Alberta on Sunday night, as a date with the Oilers at Rexall Place awaited them.

Justin Schultz put the Oilers up early with his sixth goal of the season, but David Legwand responded with less than five minutes remaining in the first, when he sniped a shot past Ben Scrivens to the tie the game. Jordan Eberle had other plans though, as he buried a tick-tack-toe play with 12 seconds remaining in the first.

The Oilers put their foot on the pedal from there – scoring three goals in the final 20 minutes to snap their six-game losing streak.

On Wednesday, General Manager David Poile kept Preds fans on their toes again, when he shipped long-time defenseman Kevin Klein to the New York Rangers in exchange for offensive-minded defenseman Michael Del Zotto. That makes it back-to-back Wednesday afternoon trades for the Preds.

Forward Taylor Beck was also recalled from Milwaukee on Wednesday in hopes he can provide for offensive spark for the Preds in the coming weeks. Colton Sissons is also set to make his debut in a Preds sweater after being recalled on Monday afternoon.

Nashville Predators at Winnipeg Jets – Tuesday, Jan. 28 – 7 p.m. CT
FOX Sports Tennessee and 102.5 The Game

The Nashville Predators make their final trip to the Central Division’s northern-most city on Tuesday night, before the two teams close out their season series on March 1 in Nashville.

The Preds are 2-1-0 in the five-game series thus far, and have earned at least a point in 10 of the last 12 games against the team formerly known as the Thrashers, going 8-2-2 since 2005-06. Overall, Nashville is 4-3-3 on the road against the Thrashers/Jets.

In Nashville’s last trip to Winnipeg on Nov. 8, the Jets scored four times in the opening period, and added another midway through the third in a 5-0 shutout victory.

New Jersey Devils at Nashville Predators – Friday, Jan. 31 – 7 p.m. CT
FOX Sports Tennessee and 102.5 The Game

In the first of back-to-back tilts this weekend, the Nashville Predators host the New Jersey Devils for the first time since Oct. 15, 2011 – a 3-2 shootout win for the Devils. It is just the 10th time New Jersey has appeared on Bridgestone Arena ice.

Dating back to Feb. 29, 2000, the Preds and Devils have played 15 times, with 12 of those games decided by one goal. Additionally, four of eight games since the start of the 2005-06 campaign have needed a shootout to determine the winner. Overall, the road team has won 12 of the 18 all-time meetings.
Nashville is 7-8-(1)-2 against New Jersey all-time, and 2-5-(0)-2 on home ice.

These teams last met at the Prudential Center on Nov. 10 during the Preds franchise record 17-day road trip. Jaromir Jagr got things going at 1:30 of the first period, before the Devils posted a pair of goals in the second and a pair in the third en route to a 5-0 shutout of the Preds.

In the Devils last trip to Bridgestone Arena, the post-overtime tiebreaker was needed once again. The Preds jumped out to an early lead with a two-goal first period, but the Devils responded with a two-goal period of their own in the third to force overtime. After a scoreless overtime period, Ilya Kovalchuk beat Pekka Rinne in the shootout to secure the win for New Jersey.

Nashville Predators at St. Louis Blues – Saturday, Feb. 1 – 7 p.m. CT
FOX Sports Tennessee and 102.5 The Game

The Preds close out the back-to-back set with their final trip of the season to St. Louis on Saturday night. Nashville is an even 20-20-(1)-2 at Scottrade Center, but are 42-32-(4)-8 against the Blues all-time.

In the most recent meeting at the Scottrade Center, in the season opener for both teams on Oct. 3, St. Louis scored three times in the first 10 minutes as it chased goalie Pekka Rinne. Nashville was able to cut the Blues' three-goal lead to 3-2 after Mike Fisher and David Legwand both scored, but the early lead was too much as the Preds fell 4-2.

Pekka Rinne is on IR with a hip injury.

Brendan Leipsic continues his tear through the Western Hockey League, after posting nine points (3g-6a) and a +9 rating in three games for the Portland Winterhawks last week en route to being named the WHL Player of the Week.

The Winnipeg, Manitoba native had back-to-back four-point games with a goal and three assists against Vancouver last Monday (a 5-2 Winterhawks victory) and Everett on Friday (a 5-1 Winterhawks win), and he added another goal on Sunday in Portland’s 6-1 win at Everett. Leipsic has recorded multi-point games in seven of nine games in January (9g-11a-20pts). He ranks third in team scoring and seventh in the WHL with 63 points (29g-34a) and a +21 rating in 38 games this season.

CALGARY, AB - JANUARY 24: Paul Byron #32 of the Calgary Flames skates against Eric Nystrom #24 of the Nashville Predators at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 24, 2014 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

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