A meeting with the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres could be just what the Nashville Predators need to avoid the longest home losing streak in franchise history.
The Predators look to snap a six-game skid on their own ice by beating the injury-riddled Sabres at home for the first time in over 10 years Thursday night.
Nashville (31-31-11) is nine points back of Phoenix for the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot with nine games remaining for both teams.
If the Predators miss the playoffs for a second straight season, they could point to their recent struggles at Bridgestone Arena. They’ve gone 0-5-1 in the last six there to match the team-record skid for the fourth time and first since April 4-15.
Nashville equaled the mark Tuesday as it failed to build on a pair of road wins by losing 5-4 in a shootout to Colorado.
"It felt like one of those games where you deserve to win it by the way you played, but you need to give a lot of credit to their team," center Matt Cullen said.
Cullen scored twice to give him three goals and three assists in the past three games after he had five points over his previous 20.
Defenseman Shea Weber leads the Predators with 46 points but hasn’t managed any during the home losing streak. He had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 road win over Buffalo (20-44-8) on March 11.
Weber, though, has no points in three career home meetings with the Sabres, and Nashville has dropped each of them dating to a 4-1 win Nov. 29, 2003.
Buffalo will likely finish the season with the fewest points in the NHL, and it’s lost nine of 10 while totaling 11 goals. Scoring has been an issue all season, as the Sabres have been shut out 10 times to tie the franchise record set in 1996-97.
They were blanked again Tuesday, falling 2-0 to Montreal while dropping to 1-3-0 on this five-game road trip. To make matters worse, defenseman Tyler Myers (upper body) and right wing Torrey Mitchell (undisclosed) suffered injuries.
They’re added to an injured list that includes goaltenders Jhonas Enroth (lower body) and Michal Neuvirth (lower body) and center Zenon Konopka (back).
"Almost every game somebody goes down. It’s one of those things, when things go bad, I guess they go bad," coach Ted Nolan told the team’s official website.
Matt Hackett is expected to make back-to-back starts for the first time since being recalled from Rochester of the AHL on March 17.
Hackett had 33 saves against the Canadiens after making 35 in a 3-1 win at Edmonton last Thursday, his first victory since beating Phoenix 3-2 in a shootout with Minnesota on March 8, 2012.
"He played well the last two games, particularly last game in Montreal," Nolan said. "I thought he was the difference maker. It could’ve been a lot worse, but he kept us in the game."