After securing points in three of four on their road trip, the Nashville Predators are hoping to take advantage of their only home game during this seven-game stretch.
With Shea Weber’s status uncertain, the Predators seek their sixth win in nine games while dealing the visiting New Jersey Devils their fourth loss in five road games Friday night.
Weber, second on the team with 36 points, was held out of practice Thursday after sustaining an upper body injury in the third period of Nashville’s 4-3 win at Winnipeg on Tuesday.
Now the two-time Norris Trophy finalist and 2010 Olympic gold medalist is in jeopardy of missing his fourth game of the season after missing time when he took a puck to the face Nov. 28.
On Tuesday, Weber assisted on Mike Fisher’s go-ahead goal in the third period as the Predators (24-23-8) wrapped up their road trip with a 2-1-1 record. The captain has scored in two of his last three home games and ranks near the top of the NHL among defensemen with 13 goals overall, but he’s come up empty in eight career meetings with the Devils (23-21-11).
”It’s a big deal if he doesn’t play,” coach Barry Trotz said. "It’s a huge hole we have to fill."
If Weber can’t play, Nashville will be left with little experience on defense.
Newcomer Michael Del Zotto is the veteran of the unit with close to 300 career NHL games, while Roman Josi is the next closest with 145 and Ryan Ellis has 117. Seth Jones, who scored Tuesday for the first time in 13 games, Mattias Ekholm and Victor Bartley all have less than one full year of NHL experience.
”Anyone it’s tough, but especially (Weber)," Jones said. "He’s our leader. He kind of makes us go … Without him, it’ll definitely be tough.”
Nashville’s Carter Hutton, 5-1-0 with a 2.47 goals-against average in his last six starts, matched a career high when he surrendered five goals in a 5-0 loss at New Jersey on Nov. 10.
The Devils’ Martin Brodeur needed just 15 saves to secure the shutout in that contest, but he allowed a season-worst six goals in a 7-3 loss to the Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
Brodeur could get another look at the Predators after Cory Schneider started at Dallas in the opener of a back-to-back set Thursday. Patrik Elias scored a power-play goal 40 seconds into overtime for a 3-2 win that ended New Jersey’s three-game road skid.
While the Devils rank near the bottom of the NHL with 2.36 goals per game, they’ve gone 10 for 23 with a man advantage over the last seven games.
”It probably didn’t need to get to overtime if we could have buried some of our chances, but we did on the power play and that was critical," coach Peter DeBoer said.
Elias, who has three goals in his last three games, has produced at least a point in 11 of 12 meetings with the Predators.
The Devils, allowing a league-low 25.4 shots per game, held Dallas to a season-low 16. The Predators registered a season-worst 15 attempts in their November loss at New Jersey.
Jaromir Jagr and former Predator Marek Zidlicky each had a goal and an assist for the Devils in that meeting.
New Jersey, 7-1-1 all-time in Nashville, makes its first visit since Oct. 15, 2011.