The Nashville Predators hope to snap a three-game slide and get back into playoff position when they begin a four-game road trip.
Fortunately, they open the swing Saturday night against the last-place Phoenix Coyotes.
The Predators (33-30-5) lost consecutive home games, falling 4-2 to the New York Rangers on Thursday after losing in 2-1 overtime to Washington two nights prior. Those setbacks followed a 4-1 defeat at Philadelphia last Saturday, snapping a season-high six-game winning streak.
Nashville is tied with Minnesota for ninth in the Western Conference, one point behind Edmonton and Dallas, which are tied for seventh. The Wild visit the Stars, while the Oilers face conference-worst Colorado.
“We know how tight this is right now, how tight the races are,” Predators left wing Steve Sullivan said Thursday.
The Predators have struggled as the visitor, losing three of their last four and posting a 5-11-1 mark in the last 17.
“It’s just going to have to be a good road trip, plain and simple,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.”We have to go on the road and do something here.
“We are going to need total commitment from everybody offensively and defensively with the puck. We are going to have to be good at the draws, we are going to have to be good on special teams.”
Nashville’s power play converts only 14.1 percent of the time, ranking among the worst in the NHL. However, the club’s penalty-killing unit is third in the league with an 84.7 percent success rate. It’s only allowed one goal in the last 29 attempts over 10 games.
The Predators are hoping to have Jason Arnott back after he sat out Thursday’s loss with an upper-body injury. The center, who leads the team with 27 goals - eight on the power play - and is second with 49 points suffered the injury Tuesday when he was hit by the Capitals’ Shaone Morrisonn.
Arnott has seven goals and 18 points in his last 13 games against Phoenix (28-34-6), including one goal in each of the last two meetings.
The Predators are 2-1-0 against the Coyotes this season, but lost 2-1 on Dec. 18 in the only matchup at Jobing.com Arena.
Phoenix, last in the Pacific Division, is 4-15-1 in its last 20 games. The club ended a five-game road trip by losing for the fourth time in a row, 5-2 at New Jersey on Thursday. The Coyotes opened that swing with promise, beating East-leading Boston 2-1 on March 5.
“We’re looking forward to going home,” Coyotes center Steve Reinprecht told the team’s official Web site. “It’s been a long trip and it’s been an emotional trip. We’ve got to reload.”
The Coyotes have won only once in eight home games, a 4-3 shootout victory over Atlanta on Feb. 19.
Shane Doan, the captain and team leader with 25 goals and 57 points, has two goals and one assist in the last three games after being held without a point in the previous four, including a 4-1 loss at Nashville on Feb. 26. The right wing hasn’t managed a point in three season meetings with the Predators.