Playing Winnipeg ‘a great test’ for struggling Predators

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NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators have been uncharacteristically messy in their own end the past seven games, and their standing in the Central Division has suffered because of it.

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This article was published 18/11/2019 (1001 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

NASHVILLE — The Nashville Predators have been uncharacteristically messy in their own end the past seven games, and their standing in the Central Division has suffered because of it.

The Preds burst out to an 8-3-1 start this season and were battling with the St. Louis Blues for top spot in the NHL’s Central Division, but have gone just 1-4-2 in their past seven while giving up a whopping 32 goals in that span.

Some unsightly blemishes on the schedule lately include a 9-4 defeat Nov. 7 in Denver to the Colorado Avalanche and a 7-2 loss to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks three nights ago.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine fires the puck at Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. The Predators have been in a tailspin as of late, going 1-4-2 in their past seven games, allowing 32 goals in that span.

The Predators, winless in four games, collide with the Jets (12-8-1) tonight at 7 p.m. at traditionally rambunctious Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville has dipped to sixth spot in the Central, four points behind third-place Winnipeg and two points back of the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Preds captain Roman Josi said the mood’s been ornery during the recent slide.

“It’s a long season and you’re going to go through some downs, but obviously we’re not liking the way we’re playing right now and we need to find a way out of it,” the defenceman said after Monday’s practice. “Winnipeg is a great test. Every time we play them, it’s a hard game and it’s become a big rivalry the last couple of years. There’s no better way for us to get out of this than a big win over them.”

Team defence has been a hallmark of head coach Peter Laviolette’s squad for several seasons. Just last season, the Predators tied the Boston Bruins for the third-fewest goals (212) allowed, giving up an average of 2.55 per game.

Through 19 games this season, Nashville ranks 13th in goals against (64), surrendering an average of 3.37 per game — and a bloated 4.57 in their past seven outings.

“We got to start showing some desperation,” veteran goalie Pekka Rinne said. “This is obviously a place we don’t wanna be at the moment and we’re looking from the outside in for a playoff spot. So, it’s a great opportunity against a good team (Winnipeg), especially at home, too, after the last game. We got embarrassed.”

The Predators made some player moves the past 48 hours. Forward Miikka Salomaki was reassigned to the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL on Sunday and the club recalled forward Mathieu Olivier and defenceman Steven Santini on Monday.

Santini is a veteran of 114 NHL games, all with the New Jersey Devils, while Olivier, a physical winger, could make his NHL debut tonight against the Jets.

During its tough stretch, Nashville also beat the Detroit Red Wings 6-1, lost 2-1 in a shootout to the San Jose Sharks and fell 5-3 to the host Vancouver Canucks.

Laviolette said he can’t blame the recent losses on one specific thing.

“They’re not games that you can just say, ‘Yep, if we just do this one thing, we’re going to be fine,’” he said. “One night, it was a penalty kill. One night, we didn’t show up. One night, we couldn’t catch a break. One night, we lost on (shootout) breakaways. So, there’s different things that add up.

“I’m not making any excuses because the bottom line is, we’re in the business of winning hockey games. And we didn’t get that done in the last, I’d say the last seven, eight, nine games. There’s such a wide gamut of how we played… but at the end of the day, there’s only one win in there. So, it’s not good enough.”

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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Updated on Tuesday, November 19, 2019 9:46 AM CST: Adds missing word

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