The Nashville Predators will take on the Anaheim Ducks Friday afternoon as they are in need of building a long winning streak if they’re going to climb back into postseason contention.
This season hasn’t gone according to plan for the Nashville Predators after a busy offseason that brought some expectations for competing at the top of the Central Division. Instead of that, the Predators find themselves with the fifth-worst points percentage in the Western Conference (.500).
The Predators and Ducks will meet for the second time this season with the Predators taking the first game 2-1 in overtime on November 29. Roman Josi had the game-winning goal while Juuse Saros was busy making 34 saves on 35 shots faced.
Two Points the Nashville Predators Must Have
Tuesday was a back-breaking loss for the Nashville Predators against the division leading Dallas Stars. They went toe-to-toe with a Stars team that’s loaded with talent, only to give up the deciding goal with less than a minute left in regulation to not even come away with a point in the standings.
The Ducks come in with one of the NHL’s worst records but aren’t folding by any means. They nabbed an impressive upset win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday via the shootout, with Adam Henrique scoring both goals for the Ducks in the first period.
It’s still an offensive struggle for the Predators, being held to two goals in each of the last two games after putting up four goals in each of the two wins before that.
Only four players on the Predators have seven or more goals (Niederreiter, Forsberg, Duchene, Josi). The team ranks 29th in goals per game, while the Ducks rank 31st.
Maybe this is the game the Predators can break out offensively and not put everything on the goaltender. The Ducks give up the NHL’s most goals per game at 4.06 and also have the league’s third-worst penalty kill.
Matt Duchene missed Tuesday’s game against the Stars for the birth of his daughter, Ellie Jo, and will have a new name on his iconic stick:
Duchene has a four-game goal streak going and is second on the team with 10 goals.
With it being a back-to-back, we’ll likely see Kevin Lankinen either in this game against the Ducks, or tomorrow against the Golden Knights. The team defense has shown some improvements in the last couple of weeks, including some clutch penalty killing.
Despite six power play chances for the top-5 unit from the Stars, the Predators held them to just one goal on those six chances. It kept the game within reach when it could’ve very easily gotten out of hand way before the third period came.
The Avalanche went 0-for-4 on the power play the game before that. The Predators have been hanging their hats on better team defense and it has kept games close till the end even in the losses. Now they have to finish.
Notables from the Ducks
Of course you have to watch out for the human highlight reel Trevor Zegras. In his third season in the NHL, Zegras has hit a little bit of a plateau in his scoring. On a bad team, he’s still producing at a respectable level with 27 points in 36 games.
Zegras is on a bit of a drought in December with only two goals and just two points via the power play.
Troy Terry is also a dangerous scoring winger that leads the Ducks in points with 31 as part of Anaheim’s top line along with Zegras and Henrique.
John Gibson is the veteran netminder for the Ducks who has faced an enormous amount of pressure being the top-10 among goaltenders in Expected Goals Against. Juuse Saros is ahead of Gibson on that list but has proven to be much more trustworthy in making the difficult saves.
Gibson faced 51 shots against the Golden Knights on Wednesday but secured the win for the Ducks by only surrendering two goals for a .961 save percentage. Moral of the story here is that the veteran is still more than capable of stealing games if the Predators bring a lackluster effort on the offensive end.
The Nashville Predators will try to get back above the .500 mark as 2023 is almost here. If they fade back much more in the standings, the focus will begin shifting on what to do at the trade deadline and if a rebuild in the 2023 offseason is imminent.