Predators-Hurricanes Preview

The Associated Press

The Carolina Hurricanes could be forced to play without their best player as they search for their first four-game win streak this season.

The Hurricanes may be without Eric Staal on Sunday night when they try to hand the Nashville Predators a fifth straight road defeat.

Staal left Saturday's 3-2 road win over the New York Islanders with a lower-body injury in the second period and did not return. The Carolina captain had five points over his previous two games and has a team-high 35.

Carolina (17-16-9) is not sure of Staal's status for this game. He has five points in his last three games against the Predators.

If Staal can't go, the Hurricanes will hope Jeff Skinner continues his strong play. Skinner has 10 points in his last six games.

Skinner was certainly effective with his first career hat trick in a 5-2 win at Nashville (18-18-6) on Dec. 5. His second one came in Thursday's 4-3 overtime win at Washington.

Jordan Staal, Eric's brother, scored Saturday to end a six-game goal drought and give him 299 career points. All three victories in this run have been by one goal.

"We had a couple of big games from a few different guys, and then just steady hockey from everyone else," Jordan Staal said. "There's not a whole lot of mistakes being made. We stuck with what we do."

Mistakes were a problem for Nashville in its 5-4 shootout loss in Florida on Saturday. The Predators salvaged a point when they rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period when rookie Seth Jones scored with 5:08 left and Paul Gaustad tied the game with 48 seconds to go.

"I didn't like the goals we gave up. They were too easy," coach Barry Trotz said. "But talk about a character way to come back, there was great character on the bench, there was great push, we got that tied up and I thought we played pretty well in the overtime."

Marek Mazanec has started in goal in Nashville's last four games, but the last time the Predators had back-to-back games, Carter Hutton started once.

Mazanec started last month's matchup and allowed four goals on 13 shots before Trotz turned to Hutton to start the third period.

Carolina has won two straight in the series after losing the previous six.

The Predators fell to 0-2-2 in their last four on the road Saturday. Craig Smith scored his team-best 12th goal, while David Legwand had an assist to end a seven-game pointless drought and take his team-high point total to 26.

The Hurricanes are without Cam Ward (lower-body injury), with Anton Khudobin starting Saturday. Justin Peters beat Nashville last month and could get the nod Sunday.

This time, Carolina will have to face defenseman Shea Weber, who missed the first meeting with an eye injury. Nashville is 6-1-1 in this series when it has Weber, who has 13 points in his last 11 games.