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Nashville Predators vs. Buffalo Sabres Preview: Outwards and Upwards

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Tonight marks the first game of a roadtrip through Buffalo and Quebec, because that’s where everyone wants to be in February.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Like wind to sails, the little time left before the trade deadline has quickly elevated trade talk around the NHL. However, although it may be somewhat lost in the trade news, there’s still hockey being played, including the Nashville Predators as they travel north to face the Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo has had another rough season. While they went into the season as a dark-horse contender after signing Kyle Okposo to play with Jack Eichel, they sit in 7th place in the Atlantic Division. With 62 points, they are still only seven points outside of a playoff spot, but their 26-26-10 record more than indicates that they simply are not ready to compete yet.

Meanwhile, the Predators have been on fire as of late, winners of their last three and earning nine of 10 possible points over their last five games. Filip Forsberg has been unreal over this span, scoring two hat tricks and eight goals total last week. Against a weaker team in Buffalo, he and the Predators have a good chance to build on their recent success.

The Buffalo Sabres

It’s one thing to be seven points away from a playoff spot, and it’s another to have additionally lost your last three games.

If there was any doubt if the Sabres would be buyers or sellers this season, their performance as of late has made the decisions of the Buffalo front office relatively simple. News as of late is that Evander Kane is being shopped around, which makes sense considering how hot he’s been. He has four points in the Sabres’ last five games and has been driving a lot of the Buffalo offense forwards.

Nevertheless, this is a team that much more was expected from when the season began. Injuries to Kane and Eichel surely played a part in their lack of success, but this team is not realistically in the running for a playoff spot because they simply are not good enough. Although signing Okposo, who leads the team in points, made the team objectively better, one can wonder if it would have been better to continue tanking. As of right now, it is hard to see where the light at the end of the tunnel for this team is.

The Nashville Predators

Last week was a good week to be a Predators fan.

Winning four of five games, including three over playoff-seeded opponents, the Predators have stormed back into the Central Division’s third playoff spot.

The more incredible part is that the Predators have done so without stellar goaltending performances. Over that span of five games, the Predators goaltending tandem of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros accumulated a GAA of 3.20. That’s not good.

Regardless, the rest of the team has picked up steam, more specifically the first line. I’m not sure what more can be said of Forsberg’s performances as of late. He has been absolutely incredible. However, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson have been just as crucial in creating those goals for Forsberg on the first line. Johansen continues to make passing an art, while Arvidsson is making everyone else's job so much easier with his speed and hustle on the forecheck.

Finally, both P.K. Subban and Roman Josi have been on fire, racking up points left and right. Honestly, if this is what the Predators are capable when the goalies can’t steal a game, wait until Rinne returns to form. Things are looking good in Nashville.

Reasons to watch

  • Forsberg was named NHL’s First Star of the Week yesterday, and for good reason. He has eight points in four games and is arguably the hottest player in the NHL right now.
  • It’s not just Forsberg, but rather the entire JOFA line of Johansen, Forsberg, and Arvidsson that has been giving opposing teams fits. I can’t remember the last time the Predators had a line with as much natural chemistry. Maybe the old Sullivan - (Peter) Forsberg - Karya line?
  • The Sabres have that Eichel kid who’s pretty good.
  • With the trade deadline in sight, the Sabres have been pegged as sellers. Nashville General Manager David Poile stated yesterday that he’ll be ready for whatever the deadline brings. Could any Sabres tonight be on their way to Nashville?

Gameday Hockey Lingo Word of the Day

Clapper, noun.

Definition: Synonym for slap-shot. When a powerful slap-shot is taken, a clap-like sound is heard.

Example: “Ryan Ellis has been putting in clappers from the point like crazy recently!”

Sights and Sounds

The puck drops at 6:00 PM CST in Buffalo. The Predators will be televised on FS-TN or you can catch them on the radio at 102.5 The Game.