NHL Trade Deadline Eve: 3 Keys for Nashville Predators to Take Down Sabres

It could be the last game in a Nashville Predators uniform for some players tonight against the Sabres.

Dec 3, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA;  Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1) makes a
Dec 3, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (1) makes a / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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Nashville Predators General Manager Barry Trotz has likely seen all he needs to see in terms of his trade deadline strategy, but the level of importance remains high against the Buffalo Sabres.

The Predators saw their eight-game win streak shattered against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, continuing the troubling theme of blown leads and shaky play on home ice. They did manage to squeak out a point in overtime.

Another non-playoff contender comes to Bridgestone Arena on the eve of the trade deadline with the Sabres looking to even the season series. The Sabres lost 2-1 to the Predators on December 2, a defensive struggle where Juuse Saros notched 34 saves.

Here are your three keys for the Predators to try to extend their six-point wildcard lead over the St. Louis Blues and Seattle Kraken.

Block Out the Distractions, Focus on Your Game

I don't really believe in trap games in the NHL. We've seen time and time again that anyone can beat anyone in this league, from top to bottom. The Predators have a lot of distractions surrounding them with the possibility of certain player dressing in a Predators sweater for the last time tonight, and of course being the thick of the wildcard race.

Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic is reporting on Thursday morning that Alexandre Carrier is being shopped by the Predators, but he could also end up being retained. Yakov Trenin is also in trade rumors.

Trading Carrier on a gameday would really complicate your starting lineup against the Sabres because you're also trying to trade Tyson Barrie. Both are on the right side of the defense, leaving you with only Luke Schenn and Dante Fabbro who have regularly played on the right side. Lauzon has primarily played on the left side with Carrier for over 500 minutes of ice time together this season.

All of that said and not knowing what's going to happen, Carrier and company have to block out the outside distractions tonight, which is no easy task. Quite frankly, every game from this point forward should feel like do-or-die for the Predators, even with the six-point cushion that can evaporate quickly if they go on another losing streak.

The Predators had a 2-0 lead over the Canadiens and looked well on their way to winning their ninth in a row, one win away from tying the franchise record, but a whacky bounce on a dump-in attempt tied the game and the Predators played rattled hockey after that.

The common theme over this nine-game stretch, getting 17 of a possible 18 points in the standings, is getting off to fast starts and scoring first. The Predators have scored first in eight of the nine games, with contributions from many different players.

There can't be any hangovers to open this game that allows Buffalo to play loose and free, much like the Canadiens were able to do later in the game after getting the fortunate bounce. The Sabres will approach tonight the same way with nothing to lose.

The trades have already popped off early for the NHL, with the Vegas Golden Knights stealing the headlines by acquiring Noah Hanafin from the Calgary Flames.

The Sabres also already dipped their toes in the trade happenings by sending 47-point scorer Casey Mittelstadt to the Colorado Avalanche for 22-year-old defenseman and former fourth-overall pick Bowen Byrum.

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Forecheck Relentlessly, Grind Down the Sabres

This is the bread and butter for the Predators. All gas, no breaks in pursuit of the puck. There's a moderate chance this starting lineup combination, which has been kept consistent by Head Coach Andrew Brunette over the win streak, will be broken up after tonight.

The Predators, although with so much more on the line than the Sabres, have to also play loose and free. Win those puck battles and play the style that has gotten you this far.

The Predators lead the NHL in hits with 1,703, and are ninth in the NHL in takeaways at 472, per MoneyPuck.

The Sabres are a difficult team to figure out. Not particularly elite in any major category, but also not among the worst. They are technically not eliminated from playoff contention yet sitting 10 points back of Tampa Bay and Detroit in the Eastern Conference's wildcard race.

All the more reason to grind down the Sabres is they are on the back end of a back-to-back against the Predators. They took the Maple Leafs to overtime but took the 2-1 loss.

High Volume of Shots, Simplify your Offensive Game

I love flashy, highlight reel goals as much as any diehard hockey fan, but I also don't like to see teams overcomplicate things and bail out the goalie from having to make a save.

The Predators will likely be up against Eric Comrie in between the pipes for the Sabres on Thursday. The 28-year-old former 2nd-round pick from 2013 has started in just one game in the last three months.

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Comrie's last start was February 15 against the Florida Panthers in a loss with 29 saves and three goals surrendered.

Needless to say, the Predators need to test Comrie early and often. Even if their low-danger shots early on, you need to throw anything and everything at him. His timing might be off and you can catch him for some soft goals to jump out to a quick lead.

Comrie has given up three or more goals in six of his eight starts and carries a -3.5 Goals Saved Above Expected over that stretch. Don't make it easy on him by being too fancy and getting passes broken up and surrendering the offensive zone possession.

We know the Predators love to make ordinary and unproven goalies look elite, so brace yourself for Comrie to look like the second coming of Martin Brodeur tonight. But maybe not if you just pepper him with shots to see if he's rusty with one start in three months.

dark. Next. Preds. Last Minutes Trade Deadline Plans for Preds: Carrier, Trenin, Lankinen