Tonight the Nashville Predators (44-29-6) play an away game against the Buffalo Sabres (31-38-10). Last night, the St. Louis Blues pulled even with the Predators in the standings and, with one more regulation and overtime win, knocked the Predators down to third place in the Central Division.
The Predators only have three chances left this regular season to ensure home ice in the first round. Will they be able to rebound from a rough 5-2 loss against the Blue Jackets to pull out a win tonight on the road?
The Buffalo Sabres
Since December, the Buffalo Sabres have been the worst team in the NHL. While they have some nice pieces in Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt, and of course Jack Eichel, the Sabres still lack consistent goaltending and a stable defense. Moreover, although they dealt with Carolina and acquired Jeff Skinner in the off-season, Skinner will become a free agent at the end of the season.
The rebuilding process for the Sabres was thought to be over earlier in this season, as they were holding down a wild card spot for a long time. However, with another top-5 draft pick likely in the cards, there’s clearly a lot of work to do. Teams like Edmonton, Arizona, and Buffalo are really reminders of the dangers that can come from years of tanking and that a quick rebound is far from guaranteed. Now, Edmonton also has other problems, like the Milan Lucic contract, but the point still stands. Even Detroit looks to have a long route ahead of them in their quest for relevancy. The Sabres may be the closest to finding the playoffs again, but they are still so far away from that goal.
Missing the playoffs again so has lead to more chaos for the Buffalo Sabres. When a team falls short so early, a lot of players will tend to try and pad their own stats as much as possible, focusing on individual goals since the team goal is gone. It certainly seemed to be the case for the Sabres on Sunday night, as they were picked apart by the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0 at home. With free agency looming and other players needing to establish themselves as worth keeping around, we could see a similar lack of cohesiveness tonight.
The Nashville Predators
After a tough 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at home on Saturday night, the Predators had two days off to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves what they need to change. Some may look to blame rookie Dante Fabbro, playing in his first NHL game, who had hispocket picked by Boone Jenner, which resulted directly in a goal-against. Nonetheless, he still played 16:12 of game time. It was a bold move tossing a defender who was not part of training camp and had no experience with the current Predators roster right into a game so late in the season and, while Fabbro did not look great, this was probably more a case of him being put in a situation where he was going to fail. Nonetheless, he showed how badly he wants to stay with the Predators with his body, blocking three shots and attempting everything he could to contribute to the team.
Nonetheless, Fabbro was only responsible for one goal-against. Juuse Saros, who missed Friday's game due to illness, didnot look 100% on Saturday night. Additionally, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis were schooled Saturday, finishing -2 and -3 respectively without getting into the offensive flow of the game, with neither offensive defenseman creating any attempts from the rush. With the Josi and Ellis pairing being a concerning point in the Winnipeg series last season, it’s discomforting to see the two defensemen being capitalized on right before this season’s playoffs begin.
Finally, although the power play this season has been atrocious and the Predators did not score with the man advantage on Saturday, there is hope. The power play looked the best it has in a long time on Saturday, with the Predators getting a lot of good looks near the end of the first period. Specifically, they used the half-wall well and opened up the upper slot, finding some really nice shots. It would behoove the Predators for them to keep their shots lower, often firing way too high instead of generating rebounds, but the attention to the half-wall and slot was promising.
Reasons to Watch
- The sooner we see the Predators play again, the sooner we can forget about Saturday night’s game.
- Viktor Arvidsson is still trying to break the Predators’ goal record. Can he do it?
- Two points are critical tonight. St. Louis is rolling and, if the Predators play them, they need home ice.
Oof. After coming down to Nashville over the weekend and eating my body weight in pancakes at Pancake Pantry, it’ll be salad for me tonight.
Sights and Sounds
The game is at 6:00 CT in Buffalo. FS-TN will televise the game, while 102.5 The Game will carry it over the radio.