The Nashville Predators limp into Vancouver on Thursday to face the Canucks as they take a two-game trip through Western Canada with four key players on injured reserve. Nashville, though, remains in first place in the ultra-tough Central Division despite missing the exceptional services of Norris Trophy-winning defenseman P.K. Subban and center Kyle Turris (upper body), along with wingers Filip Forsberg (hand) and Viktor Arvidsson (thumb).
"It's huge motivation," Predators center Ryan Johansen told reporters about maintaining their lofty perch in the standings without four key cogs. "We have to step up. Guys need to step up, including myself, including Pekka Rinne and Roman Josi. We need everyone stepping up right now throughout our whole lineup. That'll be motivation every game." Rinne is playing like the reigning Vezina Trophy winner that he is with a 12-4-1 record and league bests of a 1.81 goals-against average and .935 save percentage while not allowing more than three goals in any of his 19 appearances this season. Vancouver has fallen on hard times since a 10-6-1 start, succumbing to Minnesota 3-2 on Tuesday for its fourth straight loss - all at home - and dropping to 1-10-2 in its last 13 games. "Our team hasn't got the results, and it's hard when you don't win, but I'll give our team credit, they're going out and competing,'' Canucks coach Travis Green told reporters. "They're not letting themselves not show up. And that's hard when you haven't won in a while."
TV: 10 p.m. ET, FS Tennessee (Nashville), Sportsnet Pacific (Vancouver)
ABOUT THE PREDATORS (19-8-1): Forsberg has a team-high 14 goals while Arvidsson potted eight in 13 games before his injury. Ryan Hartman (seven goals) and Kevin Fiala (five), who has scored in two straight games and in three of the last four, have joined the top line centered by Johansen (team highs of 24 points - three in his last two contests - and 19 assists). Josi (five goals, 19 points), Mattias Ekholm (three, 17) and Ryan Ellis (two, 13) provide offensive support from the blue line with Ellis scoring Monday in the win over Buffalo, Josi recording four assists in the last five games and Ekholm assisting in two straight contests.
ABOUT THE CANUCKS (11-16-3): Rookie Elias Pettersson burst out of the gate with 10 goals and 17 points in his first 11 career games but has only three goals and six points in his last 13 contests. Bo Horvat paces the team with 25 points and his 12 goals are one behind Pettersson for the club lead. Center Jay Beagle returned Tuesday after missing 24 games because of a broken arm and was a plus-1 with two shots and two hits in 8 minutes, 33 seconds of ice time.
1. Vancouver is 0-for-12 with the man advantage over its last four games and allowed three power-play goals in three chances against Minnesota, dropping to No. 27 in the league in penalty killing at 74.8 percent.
2. Nashville has held its opponents to zero or one goal nine times this season.
3. The Predators have won the three-game series 2-1 in each of the last four seasons.
PREDICTION: Predators 3, Canucks 2 Bet Now
See all the NHL hockey Predictions