Make no mistake about it, the Nashville Predators are a shorthanded team. They are currently operating without All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban, as well as top six forwards Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and Kyle Turris.
But they also know they’re capable of playing better hockey than they did in 5-3 and 5-2 road losses on a road trip to Vancouver and Calgary, respectively. Those outcomes dropped them out of the top spot in the Western Conference and left them in a tie for first place in the Central Division with Colorado.
Nashville will try to get well at home this week, starting a three-game homestand in Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night against the Ottawa Senators.
“This team is good at staying within the day,” forward Craig Smith said of the Predators. “We’ve done a great job of not looking in the rearview mirror. But the results in the last couple of games is not where we want it. We’ll take ownership of it and make the right corrections.”
One of those corrections will presumably be on defense, where Nashville needs to be stronger with so many proven scorers unavailable. Allowing five goals in consecutive road games is not the recipe for success with most teams, but especially so for one with four core players on injured reserve.
To that end, defenseman Ryan Ellis says the Predators have to simplify their game and not get caught out of position as much.
“They wanted it more,” he said of the loss in Calgary Saturday night. “At times, we played well and at times they outplayed us, so it’s just about getting back to basics. We’ve obviously been hit with the injury bug, and when that happens, you have to play very predictable for your teammates.”
Nashville (19-10-1) is only 8-7-1 in its last 16 games, its depth being eroded by injuries. But it has won seven of its last nine at home, and in Ottawa, it has appeared to draw a favorable foil to open its final stretch of home games before Christmas.
The Senators (13-14-4) are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss Sunday to Boston, and are starting a three-game road trip. Life away from the Canadian capital hasn’t been kind to Ottawa, which is only 3-9-1 on the road. Only New Jersey owns a worse road record at 3-10-2.
Backup goalie Mike McKenna gave the Senators a chance to steal two points by making 42 saves, but he couldn’t stop Torey Krug’s one-timer at 3:07 of overtime that led to Ottawa’s third loss in four games.
“We’re still making strides to get where we want to be defensively,” Senators forward Zack Smith said. “We have to figure that out pretty quick here … Mike stood on his head for a lot of the saves tonight.”
Ottawa will also bring a shorthanded roster to Nashville. Defenseman Dylan DeMelo (upper-body injury) won’t go on the road trip, while forward Bobby Ryan (concussion) and center Matt Duchene (lower-body injury) presently reside on IR.
This will be the teams’ first meeting of the season. They’ll conclude their season series on December 17 in Ottawa.