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5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET1:00 GMT9:00 6:00 PM MST8:00 PM EST5:00 UAE (+1)20:00 ETNaN:� BRT, January 19, 2019
Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee  Attendance: 17,716

Predators face Panthers as Laviolette tries again for 600th win

Florida Panthers at Nashville Predators

  1. The Panthers and Predators will face off for the first time this season after splitting two games last season. The Preds trailed, 2-1, at the end of the first period in Nashville last season but came back by ripping off three straight goals in the second period before winning, 4-3.
  2. Nashville has lost three of its last four games, scoring a combined seven goals in the three losses and seven goals in a win over Washington. The Predators have allowed 17 goals over their last four games, most in a four-game span since February 2017 (also allowed 17 goals).
  3. Viktor Arvidsson has four goals in his last two games, recording his second career hat trick against Washington and then scoring Nashville's lone goal against Winnipeg. He has 18 goals through 25 games this season, most by a Predator through 25 player games of a season in franchise history.
  4. The Predators rank second in the league in even-strength goal differential at +32 (Toronto, +34) while the Panthers rank dead last at -30. However, the Panthers are tied for third in power-play goal differential at +14.

Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette has been stuck on 599 career wins for a few days. The wait to get his 600th may come to an end this weekend.

The Predators (28-17-4) close out their three-game homestand against the Florida Panthers (18-20-8) at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night in the first of two meetings between the teams. Nashville will play in South Florida on Feb. 1.

Starting with Sunday's road game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville has worked through a 1-2-0 spell and competed in high-scoring affairs. Those are not typical games for the defensive-oriented Western Conference club.

Most NHL teams have not been able to solve the Nashville defense and Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Pekka Rinne. The club has led in goals-against for most of the season, but a bad week totaling too many tallies has seen them slip to third (2.61 per game) behind the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins.

In all, the Nashville losses on the bookends of the three-game stretch have been brutal -- 6-3 against Carolina and 5-1 to Central Division rival Winnipeg. The Predators did pick up their own offensive pace in a 7-2 win over Washington, but the sting of porous defense, especially in the Jets game, has hurt Nashville.

It has also kept Nashville's coach hung up on that number -- 599. Laviolette and Columbus bench boss John Tortorella, who has 602 victories, are the two winningest U.S-born NHL coaches.

Tortorella won No. 600 against Laviolette's Predators on Jan. 10, and better defense and the strong offensive play of Viktor Arvidsson could help Laviolette finally reach the mark.

Arvidsson has been stellar on the top line's right wing beside Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg, scoring 10 goals in 10 games since Dec. 31. His total in that span leads the NHL, pacing one ahead of Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau, and he added a hat track in the win over the Capitals.

"He just plays the same way every night," Laviolette said of Arvidsson, who has 18 goals this season. "That line has been playing well and providing a lot of offense for us. Viktor is just the guy who never stops."

Friday night at home was a special one for Florida as Vincent Trocheck returned from injury, helping the Panthers to a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Trocheck, a 31-goal and 75-point producer in a breakout 2017-18 season, broke his ankle on Nov. 19 in Ottawa after going hard into the corner for a puck.

Showing no signs of weakness on the surgically repaired right ankle eight weeks later, Trocheck took a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau, cleverly dipped into the left circle and dished a pass back into the high slot for Michael Matheson, who blasted in what proved to be the winning goal.

Trocheck finished with an assist, three shots on goal, seven hits and was plus-2 after logging 18:12 of ice time as the Panthers broke their seven-game losing streak (0-5-2) and recorded its first win in 2019.

"I'm just happy to be back with the guys and happy to be playing hockey again," said Trocheck, who missed 27 games. "I think just maybe the emotion that I bring can kind of give a lift to the boys. It's been a tough stretch for us."

--Field Level Media

Updated January 19, 2019

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