NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators went back to school for some in-depth practices the last couple days in preparation for tonight's game against the Sabres. Just a month ago, they were 39-12-6, sitting as Presidents' Trophy candidates and looking like the top team in the Western Conference.
Now they look like a team that might not have home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Nashville is just 2-8-1 in its last 11 games and only 4-9-2 in its last 15. The power play has gone South (4 for 46 to be exact) and so has the offense in general -- with just 30 goals in the 15 games.
The Preds have scored two goals or less in eight of their last nine games and will be without injured 20-goal men Colin Wilson (20) and James Neal (22).
The Sabres, of course, can help anyone's power play. Buffalo is last in the league on penalty kill at 74.5 percent and is a putrid 69.4 percent on the road.
"We had an opportunity for a couple days to really focus in on it, so we'll try to bring that to the ice tonight," coach Peter Laviolette said here today.
The Preds hope the offense will benefit from the NHL debut of Viktor Arvidsson tonight. The 21-year-old was tied for the AHL rookie lead with 51 points for Milwaukee and lead the league with 237 shots on goal.
"I'm sure he's going to be excited. He's had a great year down in the minors, put up a lot of points for our team," Laviolette said. "... He was a guy we noticed in camp early. We were full here based on our roster. For him, going down there and getting the North American game down and developing was good for him."
Nashville squeaked out a 2-1 shootout win over the Sabres Feb. 22 in First Niagara Center. The Preds outshot Buffalo, 38-17, in that one but Michal Neuvirth helped the Sabres get a point.
"We were good in that game, " Laviolette said. "Our game was pretty tight defensively. We didn't give up a whole lot. Offensively, ee had a lot of attempts, a lot of scoring chances. Their goaltender played well, made some big saves. They were competitive ... The game got pushed right to the end. They fought for it the whole time so we know what we're in for."