Preds find scoring touch ahead of game vs. Leafs
TORONTO — The Nashville Predators are a confident team after overcoming a slow start.
They will take a 4-0-2 November record (6-5-3 overall) into their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs (6-6-3) on Tuesday at Air Canada Centre.
“Even when we weren't scoring, we knew we had players that were capable of scoring goals,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “It just wasn't happening. I go back to those two shootout losses, and there were 50 quality chances in two games, and we're just not getting that third goal.
“If you could get that third goal, or fourth goal, there's a chance you're going to win the hockey game.”
The Predators have scored 20 goals in six November games, one more than they totaled in eight October games.
They have won three games in a row, including a 5-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday led by two goals from James Neal, who has scored five times in his past four games.
The Maple Leafs are coming off a weekend of contrasting results.
They scored four unanswered goals in the third period in a 6-3, comeback win over the Philadelphia Flyers at the ACC on Friday. Then they went on the road and lost 4-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
The game on Friday impressed Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock.
“I think it's the first time since I've been here that we came back like that,” Babcock said. “It says we have talent and skill. It says we stayed calm. We executed and finished. I liked our team (Friday) night.”
It was a different game against the Stanley Cup champion Penguins. Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen faced 49 shots. The Leafs have allowed 40 or more shots in four of their past six games.
“Three of the (Penguins' goals), we could have done a better job,” Babcock said. “That part is disappointing. You can't play like that. I know we played (Friday) and I understand all that. But you rely on your structure and your ability to play defense and you wait for your chances.”
Babcock shuffled his lineup Saturday and likely will again Tuesday.
Defenseman Frank Corrado played in his first game of the season against the Penguins after being a healthy scratch for the first 14 games. Defenseman Matt Hunwick returned from injured reserve Saturday, and fourth-line center Peter Holland played for the first time since Oct. 25.
Defensemen Roman Polak and Connor Carrick and right winger Ben Smith were scratched. Center Zach Hyman did not skate with the team Monday but could play Tuesday.
Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who earned his 41st career shutout Saturday, is 4-0-2 with seven goals allowed in his past six starts.
“He's been so strong,” Laviolette said. “He's seeing it really well right now; he's in position, and I think our guys are feeding off of that in front of him.”
Rinne said, “I thought that I had a good end of the season last year and good playoffs, but it's ups and downs. But my main goal is to be consistent and be able to maintain a level where I felt like I'm playing my best game every night. This home stretch has been really good for me and my teammates, and hopefully we can keep it going. We haven't been great on the road so far, but hopefully we can play well, too.”
The Predators are 1-4-2 on the road, and the Maple Leafs are 5-2-0 at home.