January 12, 2015

Nashville's latest win came over a potential first-round playoff opponent, and it's put together over a month of strong results to prepare for such a series next month.

The Predators' next opponent is no longer concerning itself with tuning up for the postseason, and it's getting to the point that even a win seems unrealistic. Rather, the Vancouver Canucks visit Nashville on Thursday night with simply scoring a goal considered a step in the right direction as they try to end a historic drought.

Nashville (37-23-13) began a four-game homestand with Monday's 5-2 win over Los Angeles, improving to 10-2-2 dating to Feb. 22. At Bridgestone Arena, they've gone 5-0-3 since last losing in regulation Feb. 9 to Presidents' Trophy shoe-in Washington.

Ryan Johansen had a goal and two assists, Roman Josi and James Neal each had a goal and an assist, and Filip Forsberg reached the 30-goal mark for the first time. Neal has five goals and two assists in the last four games, while Johansen has two goals and four assists.

"We've got a lot of young bodies in this room and when they go home tonight, they're going to look at the standings and the results and say, 'Wow, we beat one of the best teams in this league that's talked about as a Stanley Cup contender,'" Johansen said.

"So we'll definitely use it as confidence for our group in this room and maybe being a playoff matchup."

Special teams have been a part of it with the Predators scoring a power-play goal in three straight games (3 for 6), while their penalty kill is 26 for 26 over the last eight.

Nashville shouldn't have much trouble keeping the kill streak going against Vancouver (27-33-12), which is 0 for 25 on the power play over eight games.

The Canucks fell 2-0 in Winnipeg on Tuesday and were shut out for the third consecutive game, tying a franchise record. Their goalless stretch is at 228:00 - passing the previous franchise record of 223:10 from January 1984 - and 11 periods going back to the opening 20 minutes of their March 16 home matchup against Colorado.

"It's tough to go through," Henrik Sedin told the team's official website. "We're all disappointed, there's no question about that, but we still have to look at it as a process. It's not going to change overnight.

"We have to keep doing the same things over and over, and the right things over and over, and it's going to change. We're trying to build something that's going to be good for the future, but it's tough."

It's part of a five-game losing streak - all in regulation - and they last went beyond that on a seven-game points drought Jan. 27-Feb. 8, 2014.

Adding to the frustration is that Vancouver's goaltenders have generally done enough. Jacob Markstrom made 47 saves against the Jets, while Ryan Miller has faced an average of 40.0 shots with a .942 save percentage over a 1-2-0 span.

"Not winning hockey games is very frustrating, especially the way we do it," Markstrom said. "I feel like we've got to stick together here. It's really important for us as a group to not just count (down) the games. We've got to stick to it here."

Miller is 4-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .964 save percentage in his career in Nashville.

Potential counterpart Pekka Rinne has won his last three games with two goals allowed in each and is 3-1-1 with a 2.10 GAA against Vancouver since the start of last season.

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