by Ed Neely
Fresh off a 6-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, The Nashville Predators (21-8-4, 46 points) face the Carolina Hurricanes (14-12-7, 35 points) at Bridgestone Arena Thursday night. This is the 2nd and last meeting with the Hurricanes this season and sees two teams going in different directions since they last met.
The Preds last played the Canes on November 26th in Raleigh, in a contest that ended in a 4-3 shootout loss. Juuse Saros stopped 33 of 36 shots and was 5 of 6 on the penalty kill, but gave up two to Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen on the shootout after stopping the first attempt by Brock McGinn. After Kyle Turris shot wide of the net on the first attempt, Scott Darling managed to turn aside a try by Filip Forsberg, sealing the victory. It was a good game by Juuse Saros that marked the turn around in his season.
Since that game, the Preds have gone 7-2-1 while Carolina has only managed to post a 4-3-3 record with losses to all five Western Conference teams they have faced. After reuniting the JoFA line (Johansen, Forsberg and Arvidsson) for the first time since the injury to Johansen, with less than stellar results, the question remains if Peter Laviolette will go back to the lineup that was so dominant for the first half of December. Separating the prolific JoFA line made little sense to many in the hockey world considering that they were one of the most dominant lines in the league last season, but putting Forsberg, Jarnkrok and Aberg together in a line that was dubbed “The Three Swedes” and the combination of Johansen, Arvidsson and Bonino yeilded results as well. The break up of JoFA created a dangerous third pairing where a good one existed. I, for one, will not be disappointed if Lavi goes back to the lineup that embarrassed all of Western Canada (other than the family members of the four British Columbia natives on the Preds roster).
The Preds have one more game before the Christmas break against the Dallas Stars and then they will have three nights off. In a bit of good news, they could have a great present waiting for them very shortly after Christmas as Ryan Ellis practiced without the red no-contact jersey for the first time Wednesday morning.
Preds 5 Canes 2