After winning their last two games, the Nashville Predators will face the struggling Montreal Canadiens to finish out a three-game homestand.
The Nashville Predators come into Wednesday’s game red-hot. They’ve won seven out of their last eight games and come off a 5 – 3 win against division rival Winnipeg. The team hopes to finish its current three-game homestand with three victories, but to do that, they must go through the Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal has struggled as of late, losing their last four contests. Dismally, they have been outscored in their last four games 16 – 6. Additionally, the team has been battered by injuries, with players like Ales Hemsky, Carey Price, David Schlemko and Shea Weber missing games.
This trip to Nashville will be their first since the blockbuster trade that sent former Predators captain Shea Weber to Montreal in exchange for P.K. Subban. However, Weber was held out of the lineup in their last contest and it is still unclear if he will go for them tonight.
Brendan Gallagher clearly stands out from the rest of the Canadians as the best scorer, recording nine goals and five assists this season. Captain Max Pacioretty has also made an impact, scoring seven goals and recording five assists. Shea Weber leads all defensemen on the team with thirteen points.
Charlie Lindgren, the former St. Cloud State Husky, has performed the best in net for Montreal this season. Lindgren has started eight games, winning three of those and recording a .924 save percentage. Carey Price, who is suffering from a lower body injury, traveled with the team but it is still unclear if he will start against Nashville.
What To Watch For
Mattias Ekholm Staying Hot
The increasingly elite Mattias Ekholm has recorded a goal in each of his last four games. He now has five goals this season, three less than his career high eight goals in 2015-16. His point total is now thirteen and he looks hungry for more.
Predators fans saw Roman Josi rise as an elite goal scoring defensemen just a few years ago and it appears we could have found another such player. Mattias Ekholm possesses an acute hockey sense, a well timed shot pattern and lock-down defensive strength. In the absence of Ryan Ellis, Ekholm has taken a more central role in the defensive corps. It would not be surprising to see Ekholm find the back of the net tonight against a struggling defensive team.
Home Power Play Stronger Than Ever
The Nashville Predators power play conversion percentage at home has led the NHL for a few weeks now. Amazingly, that conversion percentage has continued to climb. Nashville now converts on around 40% of their power plays at home. The New Jersey Devils hold the second best home conversion rate in the league at 31.3%. Nashville has the strongest home power play by far.
As Nashville finishes this home stand, the focus will be on taking these power play strengths on the road. Despite getting more power play chances when playing away from Nashville, they only convert on 10.9% of those. Nashville has nine away games left in 2017 and must work to bring their home success on the road. Watch for the success of the power play against Montreal and keep those strategies in mind. It will be interesting to see how closely the power play chances during the next road trip compare to the home chances we are seeing now.
Forsberg – Johansen – Arvidsson
Fiala – Turris – Smith
Sissons – Bonino – Jarnkrok
Aberg – Gaudreau – Salomaki
Josi – Ekholm
Emelin – Subban
Irwin – Bitetto
(note: The Predators have not announced a starting goaltender yet)
Austin Watson will be back after this game as his suspension will be lifted.
Where To Watch
The puck drops at 8/7 CT with pre-game coverage beginning at 7:30/6:30 CT on Fox Sports Tennessee. Additionally, the game can be heard on 102.5 The Game and the Nashville Predators Radio Network.