Preview: Canucks at Predators
The Nashville Predators enter the final two games of their schedule in the midst of a fierce three-team battle for the Central Division supremacy. Boasting a 6-2-1 mark in their last nine contests, the Predators look to strengthen their bid to repeat as the division's champion on Thursday when they face the visiting Vancouver Canucks.
"I'm actually happy that all these games matter and all these games have a lot of meaning," Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne said on the heels of Tuesday's 3-2 victory over Buffalo. "We have a lot on the table, and that's the best part of it: It's going to prepare us for the playoffs." The reigning Vezina Trophy recipient turned aside 26 shots in that contest and has yielded two goals or fewer in five of his last six starts for the Predators, who are even in points with Winnipeg (96) and one ahead of St. Louis. Vancouver's postseason aspirations went by the boards for the fourth straight season, but the team appears intent on finishing strong with wins in three in a row and six of its last nine. "Especially playing these playoff teams, teams that are saddling up to go to the playoffs, they're playing their best hockey or want to anyway. And if we can withstand that and beat some teams, it could carry some momentum into next year," Tanner Pearson said after scoring twice in a 4-2 win over San Jose on Tuesday.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Sportsnet Pacific (Vancouver), FS Tennessee (Nashville)
ABOUT THE CANUCKS (35-35-10): Pearson has five goals and six points in his last seven games after taking a bit of time getting acclimated to Vancouver, which acquired him from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline. "He's a treat to have on my wing right now," center Bo Horvat said of the 26-year-old. "He's fast, aggressive, he gets on the forecheck, he's smart, he can make plays. He's a great hockey player." Horvat, who has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his last dozen games, scored two goals and set up another in the two meetings with Nashville this season.
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (45-29-6): Vancouver native Ryan Johansen scored 6:32 into the third period on Tuesday to give him nine (two goals, seven assists) of his team-leading 63 points in his last 11 games. Viktor Arvidsson, whose 33 goals this season are tied with Jason Arnott (2008-09) and Filip Forsberg (2015-16) for the franchise record, carries a four-game point streak (two goals, two assists) into Thursday's contest. The 25-year-old Arvidsson and Forsberg, who has just one point in his last six games, are getting their first look at the Canucks after missing the first two meetings in December due to injury.
1. Nashville C Colton Sissons, who scored 3:05 into overtime in a 4-3 win versus Vancouver on Dec. 13, has two goals and as many assists in the season series.
2. Canucks rookie C Elias Petterson scored on a penalty shot in a 5-3 win over the Predators on Dec. 6.
3. Nashville D P.K. Subban has collected five points (two goals, three assists) during a three-game point streak.
PREDICTION: Predators 3, Canucks 1