Predators-Lightning Preview

John Cooper believes good things happen when Valtteri Filppula

shoots more. It appears his Finnish forward is listening.

Filppula and the Tampa Bay Lightning try to push their winning

streak to three games Thursday night when they host the Nashville

Predators.

Tampa Bay’s prized free agent acquisition this offseason,

Filppula has been forced to take on a bigger role after star center

Steven Stamkos suffered a broken leg Nov. 11. While he has been

inconsistent – Filppula has six goals and five assists in the 17

games without Stamkos – he delivered in a big way Wednesday on the

road against the New York Islanders, scoring twice in the final

2:53 of regulation and adding a tally in the shootout as the

Lightning (20-11-3) won 3-2.

”When you’re coming back from two down and get that first one,

you get immediate confidence,” Filppula said. ”That’s a good sign

when you get a great bounce late and win a game when you didn’t

play your best all night.”

Cooper, though, thinks some of those bounces could have come

earlier had his forward taken more shots in the game. Filppula had

four shots, just the third time in the 17 games since Stamkos was

injured he had more than two.

“We were passing up too many shots again, especially Filpp,” the

coach said. “Filpp scores that first one in the slot, he had three

of those during the game and passed all of them. He gets rewarded

with the shot and then…. you pull the goalie and we’ve been in

that situation we haven’t scored and tonight we did.”

Filppula had a goal in his last game versus the Predators while

with Detroit and has totaled seven goals and 13 assists in 40 games

against them. He has five goals and eight assists in helping Tampa

Bay go 9-1-1 in its last 11 at home.

Nashville (16-15-3) was thwarted in its bid to sweep a

three-game homestand and notch a season-high fourth consecutive win

Wednesday, losing 3-1 to league-leading Chicago. Defenseman Shea

Weber scored the lone goal in the first period, a power-play tally,

but the Predators were unable to sustain the momentum of a strong

opening 20 minutes in which they registered 17 of their 28

shots.

”I just thought we just mismanaged a few situations tonight

that gave them enough momentum,” coach Barry Trotz said. ”We

should have got points out of this game. We played well enough to

do that, but the second period and the third period, they did a

good job. We couldn’t get any forecheck going. We couldn’t get any

sustained pressure.”

Weber leads the team with eight goals, and six have come on the

power play. Fellow blueliner Roman Josi has two goals and four

assists in a career high-tying five-game point streak, though

rookie defenseman Seth Jones – the fourth overall pick in this

year’s draft – has only one assist in his last 12 contests.

The Predators have won four of their last five on the road,

totaling 16 goals on the heels of a four-game road skid in which

they were outscored 17-2.

Nashville has won the last three meetings between the teams,

including a 5-3 home win Oct. 27, 2011, in the most recent

matchup.