Help could be on the way as Predators host Stars

December 27, 2018

The bad news for the Nashville Predators: They have lost 10 straight games on the road, eight of them in regulation.

The good news: Their first two games after the Christmas break are at Bridgestone Arena, including Thursday night's visit from the Dallas Stars.

The better news: Some desperately needed help might be on the way sooner instead of later.

It appears that All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban and right winger Viktor Arvidsson could be back after extended absences. Subban has missed the last 19 games with an upper-body injury and Arvidsson has been sidelined since a slash broke his thumb Nov. 10 in a 5-4 overtime win at Dallas.

"We're not in the position to rest guys," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said to the Tennessean last week when asked if the team would wait to bring injured players back until after Christmas. "Guys will play when they are ready. We can't afford the luxury of resting guys."

With their depth stretched beyond its considerable max by a series of injuries that have also claimed Filip Forsberg and Colton Sissons, the Predators are 9-10-2 over their last 21 games. They went 0-3-1 on last week's road trip, losing to three of the NHL's worst teams in Ottawa, Chicago and Philadelphia along the way.

Yet Nashville is still 22-13-2, good for second place in the Central Division and third in the Western Conference. It is only four points behind Winnipeg in the Central and only three points off the pace of last season, when it won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time with 117 points.

To a man, the Predators are hopeful the break results in a return to the win column.

"Hopefully, we come back hungrier and rested, maybe a bit healthier than we are now and go from there," defenseman Ryan Ellis said.

The Stars (18-16-3) were in position to go into the holiday break with momentum, but couldn't build on a 1-0 second period lead Sunday night and fell 3-1 to the New York Islanders at American Airlines Arena.

Aiming to win consecutive games for the first time since early December, Dallas instead lost for the sixth time in eight games, all in regulation. First-year coach Jim Montgomery wasn't quite willing to use playing on back-to-back nights as an excuse.

"Guys were tired tonight, but a lot of other teams have similar schedules and they find ways to win hockey games," he said. "It's a mindset of pushing the envelope and wanting to make plays, wanting to be a difference-maker."

Their recent skid aside, the Stars remain in fourth place in the Central, tied for the Western's last playoff spot with Edmonton. The problem lately has been an offense that was once explosive, but has slid to 24th in the league with 99 goals in 37 matches.

Slow starts have also plagued Dallas. Its 18 goals in first periods rank last in the league.

"As a group, we don't prepare well enough," Montgomery said. "I don't have, obviously, my finger on it. I hope it would be better."