Predators return home with momentum, host Sabres (Jan 24, 2017)
On and off the ice, the Nashville Predators got well during their just-completed western road trip.
Not only did Nashville go 4-1-0 to jump over St. Louis for third place in the Central Division, it regained the services of top goal-scorer James Neal and All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban from injuries. The Predators trailed 2-0 in the trip's first and last stops, but rallied to knock off the division's worst team (Colorado) and its best (Minnesota).
Now they look to keep the roll going Tuesday night, when they welcome the Buffalo Sabres to Bridgestone Arena to open a stretch where they play eight of their next 10 games at home.
"We knew how important this road trip was," Nashville captain Mike Fisher said. "It's tested us in a lot of different ways, but we've played real hard and we're coming into our own."
It's reminiscent of two months ago, when the Predators put together an 8-3-1 November and appeared to be ready to resemble the team many thought would be a Stanley Cup contender. Instead, they stumbled through December, failing to find the consistency November brought it.
As it takes the ice against Buffalo (19-18-9), Nashville (23-17-7) is 7-3-1 in January, winning six of its last seven. The formula has evolved from relying on defense and cashing in on counter-attacks to driving play by possessing the puck, but the base for success has been the same: Goal prevention.
In their recent spurt, the Predators have yielded just 12 goals, less than two per game. Whether Pekka Rinne or goalie of the future Juuse Saros is between the pipes, they are getting excellent play, and that's allowed the team to settle into games even when they fall behind early.
Sunday night's 4-2 win over Minnesota was a case in point. Nashville trailed 2-0 early, but Rinne kept it in contention. Then it started overrunning the tired Wild in the last two periods, ripping three goals into the net during the third period.
"We kind of got going and were working hard and we just got back into the game," said Filip Forsberg, who tallied the tying and go-ahead goals. "We played better and better in the game and that's how we want to do it."
Meanwhile, the Sabres arrive in town off one of their best wins of the season, a 3-2 verdict Saturday night in Montreal on Zach Bogosian's first marker of the season 1:48 into overtime.
It was the second goal of the game for a Buffalo defenseman; they had combined for an NHL-low five prior to puck drop in Bell Centre.
"We've started to learn what makes us successful and have actually attacked it in our game plan," said defenseman Cody Franson, a former Predator. "I think we've been competitive in every game for about eight games, win or lose, and when you give yourself honest chances to win, you're going to put some points on the board."
The Sabres are 2-1-0 on a six-game road trip that finishes right after the All-Star break with another trip to Montreal.