Predators-Sabres Preview

The Nashville Predators have more points than anyone in the NHL largely due to their consistency, as they haven’t lost more than two straight games all season.

They couldn’t ask for a better opponent to face as they try to avoid their first three-game skid.

The Predators look to get back on track and avoid coming up empty on their road trip Sunday night against the league-worst Buffalo Sabres.

Nashville (39-13-7) fell behind 3-0 early in a 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Thursday to kick off the trip, ending its six-game winning streak, then had to settle for one point Saturday in a 3-2 shootout loss at Philadelphia.

”We were slow getting off the mark,” said coach Peter Laviolette, who returned to face the team he coached for parts of five seasons. ”I thought the second half of the game, we showed up and looked pretty good.”

Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli made their Predators debuts after being acquired from Toronto on Feb. 15. Neither recorded a point.

Mike Fisher has four assists in five games and set up Nashville’s game-tying goal Saturday, but wasn’t pleased as he watched his team get outshot 13-3 in the first period. The Predators have been outshot 116-91 over the past three games.

"We’ve got to be better," Fisher told the team’s official website. "You go through some ups and downs, and I feel like we haven’t been on our game the last little bit. We’ve got to turn it around and learn from this.

"Sometimes you’ve got to focus on (parts of the game) in order to be successful and get back to them."

Pekka Rinne started his sixth consecutive game Saturday and will likely enjoy a night off Sunday in favor of Carter Hutton. Hutton went 4-1-2 despite a 2.81 goals-against average in seven starts when Rinne was out with a sprained knee.

One of his best starts this season was the only one he’s made since Rinne returned. Hutton stopped 34 shots Feb. 8 in a 3-2 shootout win at Florida.

He might not be tested nearly that much against the Sabres’ anemic attack.

Buffalo (17-38-4) was held to one goal for the fourth time in five games in Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Rangers, and continues to threaten historic levels of futility. Averaging 1.73 goals, the Sabres are on pace to be the lowest-scoring team since the advent of the Original Six in 1942.

"In hockey, you need to make sure you make good decisions with the puck," coach Ted Nolan said before Friday’s defeat. "When to go, when not to go, guys staying high – all those things that good teams do. But if you don’t work, those things ain’t going to happen. So we’re working."

They’ve at least been better defensively this month. Buffalo yielded an average of 3.56 goals in its first 50 games, but it’s surrendered just 2.22 per contest in nine this month.

With a lack of offensive production, though, Michal Neuvirth has lost four of his five starts despite a .938 save percentage since returning from a lower-body injury. Backup Anders Lindback has yet to play since he was acquired from Dallas on Feb. 11, but perhaps that will change against the team with which he spent his first two NHL seasons.

Hutton looked plenty convincing against the Sabres in getting the start both times in last season’s series, stopping 56 shots as Nashville outscored Buffalo 10-2 in a pair of easy wins.

Shea Weber had three goals and an assist in those contests.