Preds visit Habs trying to avoid first losing streak of season

( – The Nashville Predators have yet to lose consecutive
games this season and they hope to keep that trend going by winning their
final game before the All-Star break.

The Montreal Canadiens, on the other hand, will try to deal Nashville its
first losing streak of 2014-15 when they host the Preds in Tuesday’s battle at
the Bell Centre.

The Predators, who own a four-point lead over Chicago atop the Central
Division standings, have been one of the NHL’s most surprising teams this
season. Nashville has defied expectations by being the model of consistency
under Peter Laviolette, who is in his first season as the team’s head coach.

Laviolette led Nashville to its fifth straight win, a 4-3 decision over former
longtime Preds head coach Barry Trotz and his visiting Washington Capitals on
Friday, before falling 5-2 the following night in Detroit. The setback against
the Red Wings halted a 10-game point streak (8-0-2) and was Nashville’s first
regulation defeat since Dec. 23 against Boston.

Another loss tonight would give the Predators their first losing streak since
an 0-3-0 slide from March 15-19 of last season.

Nashville is playing without franchise goaltender Pekka Rinne, who has missed
two games since suffering a lower-body injury last Tuesday against Vancouver.
Rinne, who is a leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy, is expected to miss
at least three weeks of action.

Carter Hutton has started both games since Rinne’s injury. He made 31 saves in
Friday’s win over the Capitals, but was pulled Saturday after yielding three
goals on Detroit’s first four shots of the game. Marek Mazanec made 18 saves
in relief of Hutton.

The Red Wings beat Hutton for a goal just 57 seconds into the game when Gustav
Nyquist finished off a 2-on-1. The lead would grow to 3-0 later in the first
after Kyle Quincey and Tomas Tatar tallied 70 seconds apart. Tatar’s goal
chased Hutton from the game with 7:28 left in the opening stanza.

Mike Fisher and Mattias Ekholm each lit the lamp for Nashville.

“They got some breaks early,” Fisher said. “It was their night for sure.”

It’s uncertain if Hutton or Mazanec will get the start tonight.

Hutton has an overtime loss in his only career appearance against Montreal.
Mazanec also has faced the Habs once, getting pulled from a start against the
Canadiens on Dec. 21 of last season. He did not factor into the decision
despite yielding three goals on just five shots in the 4-3 home loss.

Nashville, which is 12-8-3 as the guest this season, will complete a brief
two-game road trip tonight. The Preds will then emerge from the All-Star break
with next Tuesday’s home tilt against Colorado.

The Canadiens also will play their final test for the break tonight. Montreal
began a three-game homestand Saturday with a 6-4 win over the New York
Islanders and the victory gave Montreal an 11-3-1 record over its last 15

Tomas Plekanec scored twice and added two assists to lead the way in the win
over the Isles. The victory halted a two-game home slide and pushed Montreal’s
record as the host to 14-5-2.

David Desharnais chipped in a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, while P.K.
Subban, Dale Weise and Alex Galchenyuk also scored in the victory. Andrei
Markov picked up three assists.

Montreal again played without All-Star goaltender Carey Price, who is
considered day-to-day with an upper body injury he sustained last Wednesday in
a win against Columbus. Dustin Tokarski, starting his second straight game in
place of Price, made 27 saves.

“That was one of the best teams in the league, but we had a good performance
from all lines tonight,” said Plekanec. “I’m happy that our line played very
well tonight. It’s (just) one of those nights when you get chances like I

Price, who was selected to the upcoming All-Star Game, was back at practice on
Monday and he could get the call for Montreal tonight. The Habs franchise
goaltender is 23-10-2 with a 2.19 goals against average this season, but is
just 1-3-0 with a 2.49 GAA in his career against Nashville.

In other injury news for Montreal, forward P.A. Parenteau will miss a second
straight game with concussion symptoms. Parenteau also missed three games
earlier this month with a head injury before returning to the lineup Wednesday
against Columbus. He has six goals and nine assists in 40 games this season.

Montreal has won two of the last three overall meetings against the Predators,
but Nashville has claimed the last two encounters in Quebec.