Preview: Wild vs. Predators
The Nashville Predators have had their chance to relax and unwind for five days.
Nashville is ending its five-day bye week in the new NHL schedule and hopes to avoid the trap that has posed teams coming off their break.
The Predators travel to Minnesota on Saturday in their return to action. The previous 13 teams who have had their bye have gone 3-9-1 out of the break.
Facing the best team in the Western Conference in the Wild makes the Predators’ job no easier.
“I guess the message in the end was, ‘We have to take care of ourselves’ because it’s no easy task to come out of that break with back-to-back (road games) starting in Minnesota,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “We have to make sure we are doing the right things during the break and be ready to play.”
The Predators entered the bye week with a 5-3 win against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 12, giving them good feelings heading into their break. They had lost three of four previously as they try to stay on the top of the wild-card standings in the West.
Nashville’s 62 points have the team in fourth in the Central Division, 20 points behind Minnesota.
“That was a great win no matter how you look at it,” Predators center Mike Fisher said of the win against Dallas. “We put a solid effort in on the back-to-back, and to come back like that — those go into the memory bank when we know we can do that going forward too because we’re going to have to I’m sure down the stretch.”
The Wild kept their streak of bouncing back from losses intact in beating Dallas 3-1 on Thursday.
In the process, Minnesota matched its win total from last season. The Wild recovered from a shutout loss to Anaheim earlier in the week and are now 14-3-2 coming off a loss this season. They have lost back-to-back games in regulation just once this season, with the occasion coming in early November.
“It’s pretty cool,” Minnesota defenseman Christian Folin said. “I don’t think I’ve experienced anything similar . . . this is pretty fun. It’s a pretty special feeling. Like, every day you come back after a loss and you go in and work the next day and work on the things we didn’t do well the night before, and you come back and you play and you come out on top the next night.”
The Wild will soon deal with the bye week themselves. After Saturday’s game against Nashville, Minnesota will host Chicago on Tuesday. The Blackhawks are in the midst of their bye, returning Saturday to face Edmonton.
“If things go right we could increase it still,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said of his team’s seven-point advantage on the second-place Blackhawks. “It’s going to be a dogfight. They have won five in a row. They are going to be rested. I’m sure they’ll play two or three games while we’re having a hiatus and it’ll look a lot closer than it is (now).”
The only teams to win out of the bye have been Arizona, Pittsburgh and Toronto. Each of those teams took their bye in January. Teams with February byes are 0-5 heading into Friday night.
Nashville played back-to-back games heading into its break and comes out with another pair. The Predators travel to Columbus on Sunday.
Laviolette preached consistency coming out of the bye.
“There are only a few teams that are as consistent as they want to be. If you look at 30 teams, might be six teams that say that they have been fairly consistent, 20 teams saying that they’ve been inconsistent and there have been four teams that say they haven’t been good,” Laviolette said. “That’s the league. That’s the majority in that pool of fifth in the conference down to 12th in the conference. If you put two conferences together, that’s a lot of teams.
“We are working at it, the guys want to be consistent and they were consistent with their game (against Dallas).”