Two teams desperate to make the playoffs meet Thursday when the Nashville Predators visit the Pittsburgh Penguins
Nashville (37-28-8, 82 points) is on the outside looking up at the Western Conference wild-card spots. But the Predators are not only still within reach of a couple teams ahead of them with games in hand, they also are coming off a big and emotional win
On Tuesday, Nashville broke a two-game skid and beat the NHL's best team on the road with a 2-1 win at Boston, snapping the Bruins' seven-game winning streak.
"There's a lot of belief in this (locker) room, and beating that first-place team just gives you that much more belief," said Predators forward Cody Glass, who had a goal and an assist against the Bruins
"This is the game that builds character for a lot of our young players and really shows that we can play in this league."
Not only was it a much-needed couple of points against a daunting opponent, but it also came a day after a deadly shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, something the team talked about privately before the game and publicly afterward.
"We're on a platform here as professional athletes and coaches, and the city of Nashville means a lot to these people, and we wanted to put in an effort for the first responders, for the people that were involved in the incident, the families, the school," Predators coach John Hynes said. "And we're just really proud of the guys.
Nashville also pulled off that win despite a long list of players who are out with an array of injuries: forwards Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene and Juuso Parssinen, and captain Roman Josi and fellow defenseman Alexandre Carrier.
The Penguins (36-28-10, 82 points), who have a tenuous hold on the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, were on a roll with three straight games they felt good about
Those were a road win against defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado, a strong game in a loss at Dallas and, especially, a win Saturday at home against rival Washington that was an emotional rollercoaster when they blew a three-goal, third-period lead before pulling it out, 4-3.
And then came a gut check on Tuesday, when Pittsburgh started poorly in Detroit to fall behind by three goals, came back to tie it, tied it again at 4-4 and then lost 7-4.
"Inexcusable," Penguins winger Jason Zucker said of losing to a team that is out of the playoff chase and had been reeling since the NHL trade deadline. "We need to come away with points there.
Pittsburgh has an intriguing decision to make in goal. No. 1 goaltender Tristan Jarry sustained his third injury of the season and missed the Dallas game. He was recovered enough by Saturday to serve as Casey DeSmith's backup and presumably could have started Tuesday.
But the Penguins went with DeSmith again because, coach Mike Sullivan said, he was "deserving.
"He's played really well of late," Sullivan said.
DeSmith gave up six goals, some of them partly because of poor defensive play in front of him.
The Penguins canceled Wednesday's practice, leaving no indication of any lineup changes
--Field Level Media