The Nashville Predators aim to stretch their winning streak to four games when they host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.
Nashville’s only other four-game win streak this season came Oct. 22-29, marking the culmination of a strong opening month for the club. Since that time, the season “has been full of ups and downs,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said, but the Predators “kind of see the light now” under new head coach John Hynes.
“Lately, I think it shows in our game that we play with a lot of passion, just gutsy plays,” Rinne said. “I feel like we’ve changed the way we play the game. Obviously it’s Hynesie, but it’s also the players buying into it, and I think it shows.”
The Predators are 8-7-0 since Hynes was hired Jan. 7, a stretch that includes back-to-back wins over the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues over the weekend. Nashville recorded a 4-3 win in St. Louis on Saturday before pulling out a 2-1 home victory over the Blues on Sunday.
Rinne was named the first star of Sunday’s game, stopping 38 of 39 shots in one of the veteran goalie’s most impressive performances of the season. Rinne badly needed the strong showing, having lost playing time recently to Juuse Saros.
Nashville could return to Saros as the starter on Tuesday, or Rinne could again get the call based on his previous game against Carolina — a 31-save shutout in a 3-0 Predators victory on November 29. That result snapped a six-game (0-4-2) winless drought for the Predators against the Hurricanes that dated back to the 2016-17 season.
Both clubs currently find themselves outside of the playoff picture in their respective conferences. Like Nashville, Carolina is also hoping it has found some midseason form, as the Hurricanes are 6-3-1 over their last 10 games.
Sunday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers saw Carolina at least salvage a point, as Sebastian Aho’s third-period goal forced the game beyond regulation time. However, the special teams unit may have cost the Hurricanes a crucial win, as they went 0-for-3 on the power play while surrendering a power-play goal to Edmonton’s Kailer Yamamoto in the second period.
“We’ve got the feeling on the bench that we can come back. That’s a good thing,” Aho said. “But when we have those moments, (on the) penalty kill (and) power play, we just have to do a little bit better job.”
Aho recorded two goals and an assist on Sunday, giving him 15 points (nine goals, six assists) over a nine-game point streak. Linemate Andrei Svechnikov is also on a seven-game point streak, including four goals and five assists.
James Reimer stopped 20 of 24 shots in the losing effort, though the goalie has now played eight consecutive games (6-0-2) without a regulation loss. Carolina has deployed Reimer and Petr Mrazek in a virtual split of starting duties over the last month, so Mrazek could be back between the pipes against Nashville.
Craig Smith’s second-period goal against the Blues on Sunday gave the forward six goals over his last five games.
–Field Level Media