Two teams striving to make the playoffs and hoping to continue a recent upward trajectory meet Tuesday when the Nashville Predators host the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nashville is on a three-game winning streak, including a 6-2 win Sunday at Arizona.
Pittsburgh has won two straight following a four-game slide, including Sunday’s 7-3 home win against Tampa Bay.
The Predators have scored six goals in each of their past two games, but the winning comes with an emotional roller coaster given the off-ice news surrounding the club.
With the NHL trade deadline approaching Friday, Nashville has looked like a seller as it sits outside — but not too far outside — the playoff picture. The team has traded away forwards Nino Niederreiter and Tanner Jeannot.
In addition, general manager David Poile announced he is retiring in June, to be replaced by former Predators coach Barry Trotz.
“We need to use that emotion to fuel ourselves and keep pushing,” said Predators center Matt Duchene, who had three points Sunday. “What a story it would be if we end up making the playoffs. That’d be just amazing. And we’re going to really push for it.”
Because of the roster turmoil, Nashville played with just 17 skaters Sunday, many of them probably wondering what other moves might be coming.
“Obviously, we’re hockey players and we’ve got to go about our business and play hockey,” said Predators defenseman Roman Josi, who also had three points Sunday. “But we’re people first, so it’s OK to feel those emotions. It’s OK to be sad or a little anxious about what’s happening.
“I think going forward that’s kind of our message: We can’t really control what’s going to happen, so you’ve got to go out there and keep winning games, keep playing hard, and the rest is kind of out of our control, but it’s definitely not easy.”
Pittsburgh is hanging on to a wild-card spot in the East, thanks in large part to weekend wins at St. Louis and home against Tampa Bay.
“We responded in a good way after a tough week,” said Penguins forward Drew O’Connor, who opened the scoring Sunday.
Pittsburgh has had an unwanted penchant for giving up goals soon after scoring one, but that pattern got blasted Sunday, when they scored six unanswered goals in the second period.
“It’s still a long way to go, and it’s just two games, but we did a lot of good things,” Penguins center Teddy Blueger, who scored Sunday for the first time in 33 games, said of the weekend.
“There’s still tough games ahead of us.”
The game at Nashville kicks off a three-game road trip for Pittsburgh, which holds the longest active streak in North American pro sports of 16 straight years making the playoffs.
The weekend might have provided a boost toward extending that.
“From a process standpoint, I just think our intent was where it needed to be — our energy, our effort, things of that nature, were all where they need to be for us to have success,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
“Those are things that we can build on.”
–Field Level Media