NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Predators showed signs of a Stanley Cup Finals hangover during the opening month of the season.
But when the Golden Knights (17-9-1, 35 points) visit jam-packed Bridgestone Arena on Friday, the opposition will be the hottest team in the Western Conference.
“I look at Nashville as one of the best teams in the league,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “You watch them play now, they’re on a real hot streak.”
Nashville (18-7-3, 39 points), which lost to Pittsburgh in the finals last season, was mired in the middle of the Central Division when it acquired center Kyle Turris on Nov. 5 in a three-team deal with Ottawa and Colorado.
Turris has three goals and nine assists in 13 games with Nashville, adding much-needed depth behind leading scorer Filip Forsberg (14 goals, 14 assists).
Since the trade, the Predators have gone 11-2-1 and entered Thursday tied with Los Angeles for the top spot in the Western Conference.
Nashville is 8-1-1 in its past 10 games, and Tuesday’s 5-2 victory at Dallas was the Predators’ third in a row.
“They’re a good team. They’re playing really well, so it will be a good test for us,” said Knights forward James Neal, who spent the past three seasons with Nashville. “I’m excited for how our team can match up and how we’re going to play them.”
The weekend trip to Nashville and Dallas marks the fifth time the Knights have played back-to-back games on the road. And the results haven’t been kind.
After victories at Dallas and Arizona to open the season, the Knights are winless in their past six road games on back-to-backs (0-5-1).
The Knights dropped both games on last week’s two-game swing through Minnesota (4-2) and Winnipeg (7-4).
Gallant made a slight change in the schedule, as the team did not practice Thursday before leaving for Nashville.
“We had some good spurts in the last road trip in Minny and in Winnipeg,” Gallant said. “We’ve just got to play a full 60 minutes. It’s tough to win on the road against those real good teams, but if you can play a good, solid 60 minutes, you give yourself a better chance. We’ve just got to try and do that.”
1. Family reunion. Golden Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban missed Wednesday’s practice due to illness, but is expected to face his older brother, P.K., an All-Star defenseman for the Predators. And their father, Karl, will be in attendance at Bridgestone Arena since this is the Dad’s Trip for the Knights. Loser buys dinner?
2. Warp speed. This game features two of the fastest teams in the Western Conference. Both play a similar style, too. The Knights need to be aware of Nashville’s talented defensemen Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban jumping into the play.
3. Stick with it? If forward David Perron is activated from the injured-reserve list, as expected, Knights coach Gerard Gallant faces a choice. Does he keep physical forward Stefan Matteau on the fourth line or opt for speed with Oscar Lindberg?