The Nashville Predators are taking responsibility for their home losing streak, but a look at their opponents reveals there hasn’t been a bad one in the bunch.
They won’t be able to say that after Saturday night, when they’ll try to end their five-game slide at Bridgestone Arena against the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres.
Nashville’s struggles include a 2-8-1 overall record and a 0-4-1 span at home after Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to Minnesota. The Predators (43-21-8) dropped just seven points at home in their first 30 games with a 26-3-1 record accounting for the best mark in hockey while never losing consecutive contests.
"It’s frustrating," coach Peter Laviolette said. "It’s frustrating for everybody. At the end of the night, you’ve got to win games. We had an opportunity to win the last two games and we didn’t get it done. There are things that we can do better."
While they’ve allowed 3.00 goals per game over the past 11 – up from 2.26 in their first 61 – their 1.73-goal average in that span is down from 2.95 and likely the greater concern.
Nashville’s power play over a 4-9-2 span dating to Feb. 19 is 4 for 46 (8.7 percent) and better than only the New York Rangers.
Individually, Roman Josi scored both goals against the Wild and has three in his last two contests, but things fall off from there. Team points leader Filip Forsberg (55) has been limited to three assists in 11 games, Mike Ribeiro (54) has been shut out in five, and Mike Fisher has been blanked in six.
James Neal, tied for the team lead with 22 goals, has scored once in his last 11 games and has missed the last three as well as Friday’s practice with an upper-body injury. Colin Wilson, who has one goal in 13 games, suffered a lower-body injury Thursday in practice and was out Friday, leading Nashville to recall 21-year-old Viktor Arvidsson for his NHL debut.
There’s still no panic despite having fallen two points back of Central Division-leading St. Louis, while Chicago is lurking just two back. The Blues have a game in hand and the Blackhawks have two.
"I think we’re good," forward Viktor Stalberg told the team’s official website. "We’re in a spot where we’re still chasing the top seed both in the conference and the league, and with 10 games to go, we’re in a situation where we have a chance to do that."
Even if the offense doesn’t come around against the Sabres, it’s difficult to envision the Predators giving up much.
Pekka Rinne has just a 2.72 goals-against average over a 3-8-2 span after posting a 1.94 through a 34-7-2 start, but he’s 1-1-0 with a 0.50 mark against the Sabres.
He didn’t play in a 2-1 shootout win in Buffalo on Feb. 22, which was Nashville’s third straight in the series with an 11-3 scoring edge. Shea Weber, who has two points in his last 15 games, has three goals and an assist during the Preds’ series winning streak.
The Sabres (20-44-7) have the fewest away points in hockey (19), and a 3-1 home loss to New Jersey on Friday establishes their scoring average over a 1-6-2 span at 1.56 goals per game.
"I don’t think we played with a lot of energy," said Matt Moulson, who scored but is without a goal in six career games against Nashville.
The Sabres’ scoring leaves Anders Lindback with about no hope of a win when allowing at least three goals. He’s 0-9-2 when doing so this season and 0-3-2 since joining the Sabres.
In his last four games, he’s 1-2-1 despite posting a 1.93 GAA.