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Nashville Predators vs. Buffalo Sabres: Pointing Home

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The Preds return home after a disappointing 1-3-1 road trip. Considering how they played, maybe we should be pleased with the 3 points they picked up.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators will return home tonight to finish up their season series with the Buffalo Sabres. After a disappointing road trip where the Preds grabbed only 3 points in 5 games, the Preds will look to familiar Bridgestone Arena to help generate some points in the standings. Tonight begins a modest 3 game home-stand against teams that you'd like to get points against: the Sabres, the Coyotes, and the Panthers.

Things in the Central Division are just as scary as ever. Dallas is firmly in control (pulling away?) with 38 points and they are 8-2-0 in their last 10. Somehow, the Preds have managed to remain in striking distance of the Blues, who have 31 points. The Predators are tied at 28 points with... the Blackhawks? Oh, great. Meanwhile, the Wild and the Jets are lurking close behind. The Avs seem to be holding up their end of the bargain at the bottom of the standings, but everyone seems keen on making this the most competitive division in hockey. Everyone except for maybe the Predators.

The Buffalo Sabres

We just saw this team on Wednesday, so nothing really has changed. The Predators came away with a 3-2 win and Carter Hutton played outstanding. It was a nice win, considering where we had been the last 3 games. But the Sabres really outplayed the Preds for most of the contest and, unless they can contain the Sabres dangerous youth, you can expect to see more of that tonight.

Take a look at 5-on-5 player shots attempts by the Sabres from Wednesday's game:

That's a LOT of players on the plus side of the Corsi counter. Even Zach Bogosian had a nice game in that regard. Evander Kane, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Ryan O'Reilly all had great games. The Sabres were simply outskating the Preds through neutral ice and setting up shop in the Preds defensive zone, resulting in a  lot of shot attempts. Thankfully, Hutton was up to the task. But the defense of the Predators did a decent job of not allowing quality shots, as indicated by where these shot attempts came from and the shot results:

Only 8 of their shots on goal came in the medium or high danger area during 5-on-5 play. The Preds stiffened up in the zone, blocking most of the more dangerous shots. The goal from Kane wasn't defensed well by the Preds (nor by Hutton) but for the most part, the Predators defense held sway amid a flurry of Sabres shots.

Tonight, we will have to see more of that. If the Sabres are skating like they did on Wednesday, the Preds will need to play tough defensive hockey in order to pull out a win.

The Nashville Predators

Here's what the 5-on-5 player shot attempts by the Preds looked like from Wednesday:

Yep, we were playing behind the puck pretty much all night. Being up 2-0 and then 3-0 had an effect on the game-play of course, but should the Preds really have been content with a 2 or 3 goal lead, given how the last few games had gone? The foot was clearly off the gas pedal after Hodgson's goal, despite there being over 30 minutes of hockey left in the game.

I'm hoping we see Hutton back in net tonight, even though Lavy has a history of going with Rinne in back-to-back nights. Hutton seemed to get a nice momentum in Wednesday's game and he would be facing the same team tonight. If the Preds aren't going to make a move for a better backup goaltender, they might as well use the one they have as much as possible. You just hope that if they get an early goal or two, the Preds don't sit back like they did on Wednesday. Recipe for a disappointing loss right there.

UPDATE

According to Finnish website Jatkoaika, both Juuse Saros and Viktor Arvidsson have been recalled by the Predators. Now, only Saros is listed on the Predators active roster while Arvidsson is not. They are also reporting Saros is getting the start tonight, which is wild.

With Gabriel Bourque missing almost the entire Philadelphia game with an injury, the forward call up makes sense. The goaltending one less so, unless Hutton or Rinne are injured. (Hutton did have that huge collision last time against Buffalo.)

Since has still ben no official word from the Preds yet, we'll keep you update and see how this potential three-headed goalie monster develops.

Reasons To Watch

  • Maybe Forsberg is back? I mentioned his recent mediocre play in the last preview, and then he went out and played great against the Flyers. He seemed much more confident after getting that early goal.
  • Mike Fisher absolutely stole a point for the Preds on Friday night. It was tough sledding in front of the Philly net, but Fishy found a way with 20 seconds left. Dramatic play, and he was fired up. Now let's see that same fire tonight, Fish. Show us a glimmer of what you showed us last night and last year. The Preds need it!

The Important Details

Tonight! Bridgestone Arena! 7pm! FS-TN for TV and 102.5 The Game for radio!