The Nashville Predators’ power play has struggled throughout the season, though it has excelled in the last five games.
The lowly Carolina Hurricanes don’t do many things well, but their outstanding penalty kill is an exception.
The Predators can end the visiting Hurricanes’ streak of seven straight games without yielding a power-play goal Tuesday night and avenge an earlier defeat to Carolina.
Nashville (25-9-4) entered Christmas ranked second-to-last in the league on the power play at 11.3 percent, though in five games since the holiday break, it has gone 7 for 20 for its most productive stretch of the season. Seven different Predators have scored with the man advantage in this period, with Mike Ribeiro tallying a team-best four points – all assists – on the power play.
Craig Smith and Seth Jones had power-play goals in Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to Anaheim.
The Predators play four of their next five at home, where they have an NHL-best 14-2-1 record despite a league-worst 8.8 percent success rate on the power play.
Carolina (12-23-4) hopes to go eight straight games without yielding a power-play goal for the first time since Jan. 10-23, 2012. Its opponents are 0 for 20 over the last seven games, and it has been 37 games since a foe scored twice with the man advantage.
The Hurricanes’ penalty kill is at 85.8 percent to rank among the NHL’s best for a team with the league’s second-worst offense at 1.92 goals per game.
Coach Bill Peters’ club has won consecutive 2-1 games, including Sunday’s shootout home win over Boston. He believes his offense will get untracked eventually.
"I’m used to it, but I’m not going to accept it," the coach told the Hurricanes’ official website. "We’re going to push to score."
Another 2-1 win for Carolina came Dec. 2 when it hosted Nashville. Jeff Skinner had a goal and an assist as the Hurricanes took their fourth straight in this series, killing off the Predators’ lone power-play opportunity.
That contest marked a rare defeat for Pekka Rinne, who leads the NHL with 25 wins and is third in goals-against average at 2.00. Rinne had been 3-0-0 with a 1.63 GAA against Carolina.
The goalie was rested Sunday and figures to be back in the crease after he allowed six goals for just the third time in his career in Saturday’s 7-6 overtime win at Los Angeles.
Peters will start Cam Ward or Anton Khudobin. Ward made 32 saves to take the December meeting, though he is 0-3-0 with a 3.04 GAA in three starts at Nashville.
Khudobin has yielded one goal in each of his last three starts, including Sunday.
"It’s a comfortable feeling when you’re making the decision on who’s going to play in net," Peters said. "I don’t think we can go wrong right now. Both guys are dialed in and pushing each other to maintain the level they’re at."
Nashville has had a recent habit of blowing leads. The Predators gave up the tying goal with 2:17 left in regulation Sunday, wasted a three-goal lead in the final 2:01 the previous night and conceded an equalizer with 1:13 left in the third period of last Monday’s 5-4 shootout defeat in Chicago.
"We’ve had a tough last couple minutes the last couple games, but it’s nothing we can’t fix and move on from," Smith said.
Predators winger James Neal, second on the team with 13 goals, has missed two straight games with a lower-body injury.