Predators-Hurricanes Preview

BY foxsports • January 1, 2016

After laboring through much of November, the Carolina Hurricanes changed their trajectory this past month and capped it off by beating the league's hottest team.

They'll try to open this one on a successful note as well by earning a fourth consecutive home victory against the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

Carolina (16-17-5) bounced back from a 3-6-4 mark in November by going 8-5-1 in December. They finished off 2015 by snapping Washington's nine-game win streak with a 4-2 victory Thursday.

Eric Staal scored the tiebreaking goal, the first of the Hurricanes' three in the third period.

"I like the way we've been playing here the last month. We've got a good vibe going in our room. We've got a good vibe on the ice," the Carolina captain said. "Tonight, we played a team that has been rolling pretty good. It was a great effort. It was a big win and we have to keep going after it."

Carolina will seek its fourth win in five games and season-high third in a row at home against a team seeking to avoid its first five-game road skid in two seasons. The Predators (18-13-7) have been outscored 15-6 while going 0-3-1 in their past four contests away from home and were routed 5-1 in Dallas on Thursday.

Pekka Rinne was charged with all five goals, matching a season high, and coach Peter Laviolette pointed to his team's play in the neutral zone.

"It's the one thing that we harped," Laviolette said. "The neutral zone was going to be a big thing, and we turned the puck over too much."

Rinne stopped 25 shots while outdueling Cam Ward in his first start this season, a 2-1 victory Oct. 8. The Nashville netminder is 5-1-0 with a 1.65 goals-against average in six career matchups but has started in just one of his team's three consecutive losing visits to Carolina, a 2-1 defeat Dec. 2, 2014.

The Predators have won the past two overall matchups with Rinne in net each time, but the Predators goaltender is 1-2-0 with a 3.70 GAA in his last three starts.

Ward and Eddie Lack, meanwhile, have combined to give up 11 goals in the last seven games. Lack stopped 30 shots in beating Washington but has given up nine goals while splitting his last two starts against Nashville.

Ward is 2-0-1 with a 1.62 GAA in his past three home meetings.

"It's going to be another tight match. The (Predators) don't give up much," Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal said. "They've got a great D corps and goalie, and their forwards play solid defensively."

Carolina's Jeff Skinner has five goals and four assists in his last six games against Nashville. The Hurricanes' leading goal scorer (15) ended a six-game drought Thursday.

The Predators' James Neal has eight goals and five assists in 15 lifetime matchups with the Hurricanes, but doesn't have a point in his last three.

Nashville went 6-6-3 in December and is 11-12-5 following its 7-1-2 start.

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