Thanks in large part to their stellar play at home, the Nashville Predators remain in contention for their first Central Division title. The Predators, though, will have only one extended stay there over the next four-plus weeks.
However, they will have a couple of new players to help them over a road-heavy stretch, possibly as soon as Tuesday night’s visit to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Nashville (37-19-7) improved to 10-0-2 in its last 12 home games and 17-2-2 over its past 21 with a 2-1 win over Los Angeles on Monday. Pekka Rinne made 30 saves to help the Predators collect at least one point in a fifth consecutive contest (4-0-1) following a 2-3-2 start to February.
Nashville is four points behind Central co-leaders Detroit and St. Louis, but will play 10 of its next 15 games away from home. A three-game stay that begins March 6 is its only homestand until March 31-April 5.
Kostitsyn will reunite with his brother Sergei, whom he played with from 2007-2010 with the Canadiens, and try to break a nine-game point drought.
“We’ve certainly got ourselves in a real good position here in the playoff race, and I think with these trades we’ve certainly given us a chance to play with the big boys this year when we get in the playoffs,” general manager David Poile said.
The Predators will try to help themselves in that quest for a third consecutive playoff berth by recording a seventh consecutive win over the Hurricanes (23-26-13) and their third straight in Raleigh.
Carolina, which made no deals before the trade deadline, enters this game 14th in the East. However, the Hurricanes are also 10-2-3 in their last 15 home games and 5-1-4 in their 10 contests this month.
Only continued trouble with shootouts has kept the Hurricanes from an unbeaten mark halfway through their season-high, six-game homestand. They suffered their second such loss in a row Saturday, 3-2 to Florida, and dropped to 0-6 in shootouts overall.
“Our guys are playing as hard as they can,” coach Kirk Muller said. “I think, as a coach, I cannot ask more from our guys. We have young guys, and I think they’re giving it everything they’ve got right now.”
Nashville made sure Carolina didn’t take last month’s matchup at Bridgestone Arena beyond regulation by scoring the game’s first four goals. Patric Hornqvist had of a pair of those in that 5-2 victory and Rinne made 27 saves.
With the Predators playing on back-to-back nights, there’s a chance that Anders Lindback could start in this game, but he is on a five-game losing streak and has made one appearance since Jan. 17. Lindback won his only game against the Hurricanes on Dec. 4, 2010, while Rinne, the NHL leader with a career-high 35 wins, is 3-0-0 with a 1.63 goals-against average versus Carolina.
Ward, who hasn’t played since Feb. 18, is 0-4-1 with a 2.97 GAA in five lifetime games versus the Predators.
Hurricanes captain Eric Staal has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) during an eight-game point streak and has an assist in seven consecutive contests. He’s recorded two assists in seven career meetings with Nashville.