Ribeiro, Predators arrive in Arizona in 6-game tailspin

Nashville Predators center Mike Ribeiro against the Buffalo Sabres earlier this season.

Kevin Hoffman/Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The run of reunions continues for the Coyotes when Mike Ribeiro and the Nashville Predators come to Gila River Arena to play Arizona on Monday night.

Last Thursday, former Coyote Radim Vrbata was in town with the Vancouver Canucks and this Thursday, recently traded center Antoine Vermette will return with the Chicago Blackhawks.  

Ribeiro and the Predators had been riding high until recently. Nashville sported the league’s best record at the end of February, and the trades for Maple Leafs Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli were thought to have bolstered the Preds for a playoff run in front of the superb goaltending of Pekka Rinne, who is second in the NHL in wins (35), third in goals against average (2.13) and fifth in save percentage (.926).

COYOTES vs. PREDATORS

When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Gila River Arena, Glendale
TV: FOX Sports Arizona
Season series: Predators lead 2-0
Injuries: Arizona — F Mikkel Boedker (splenectomy) and C Martin Hanzal (back surgery) are out for the season. Nashville — F Eric Nystrom (lower body) and D Anton Volchenkov (lower body) are on injured reserve. Nystrom is expected to miss about four weeks.
Quick facts: Coyotes captain Shane Doan played in his 1,379th career NHL game Saturday, moving him into 39th place on the NHL’s all-time games list. … The Predators, who lead the Central Division, have never won a division title in their 15 seasons of existence, finishing second five times. … With Thursday’s win over Vancouver, Don Maloney tied John Ferguson (654) for the most points by a general manager in Coyotes/Jets franchise history.

But Nashville dropped its sixth straight game Saturday night to the Winnipeg Jets and has seen its once comfortable lead in the Central Division narrow to two points over the St. Louis Blues (two games in hand) and five over the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I thought that we played another solid game like the game before, but we’re just not getting the results right now," Rinne told reporters after losing to the Jets for the first time in his career (7-1). "When you struggle, it seems like it’s tough to get out of that hole. You just have to believe it and keep working."

Ribeiro’s former nanny in Texas is suing the Predators center for assaulting her, and suring Ribeiro’s wife, Tamara, for threatening her in 2012. 

Ribeiro’s attorney issued a statement Thursday saying he would not publicly discuss the facts surrounding the allegations.

"I can say that the Ribeiros plan to vigorously fight this lawsuit," attorney Brian Lauten wrote. "At the same time, Mike will maintain his focus of doing all he can to help Nashville win its first-ever Stanley Cup."

Whether the suit has merit or not, it’s a reminder of the many off-ice issues Ribeiro was dealing with that led the Coyotes to buy him out last summer, despite having to pay an average of $1.94 million for six seasons. 

Ribeiro is having a terrific bounce-back season and, based on reports, has put his personal issues behind him for the time being. He leads the Predators with 54 points (13 goals) and is currently centering the team’s top line with rookie sensation Filip Forsberg (21 goals, 53 points) and Craig Smith. 

The Preds sport four players who could be finalists for major NHL awards at the end of the season. Rinne should be in the running for Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie and Forsberg, who leads all rookies with 53 points, should be the top candidate for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie. 

Defensemen Roman Josi and Shea Weber could also be in the mix for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. 

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