The Nashville Predators will be reminded of how difficult the first game can be coming off a long break when they host the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night.
The Predators haven’t played since a 4-2 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 31.
Nashville came out of its bye week last season and lost 5-1 to the visiting Vegas Golden Knights, giving up three goals in the first 12 minutes.
“I think getting a nice little break to refresh (is needed),” Nashville coach Andrew Brunette said before the break.
The Coyotes came off a 12-day break on Thursday and gave up three goals in the first 6 1/2 minutes of a 3-2 home loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights, who returned from their bye week two days earlier in a 3-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers.
“Having a stretch off like that, we’ve got to be more dialed in,” Arizona center Barrett Hayton said. “A team like Vegas, having a game on Tuesday, they’re sharp there. We’ve just got to be more prepared and focus on the details more.”
The Predators entered Friday tied in points with the St. Louis Blues for the final wild-card spot from the Western Conference, though Nashville has played two more games.
The Coyotes were five points back of the Predators and also trailing the Seattle Kraken and Calgary Flames entering Friday.
“In the new year, we haven’t gotten the points that we’ve wanted,” Predators forward Filip Forsberg said. “But at the same time, we’re in the mix and we’re still growing.”
Nashville lost three in a row heading into its bye week and appeared to be hitting a wall, so Brunette is hoping the time off not only rested his players’ bodies but also reset their momentum.
“I’ve been very demanding on them,” Brunette said.
The Coyotes have lost four in a row, matching their longest skid of the season.
On the bright side, Arizona forward Barrett Hayton returned against Vegas after missing 32 games with a hand injury and defenseman Matt Dumba (upper body) came back after missing the last three games before the break.
Hayton, who’s coming off a career-high 19 goals and 43 points last season, centered the fourth line with Logan Cooley and Dylan Guenther on Thursday, playing 13:17.
“It was the longest time I’ve been out in my career and I’ve been chomping at the bit for a while to get back,” Hayton said. “Every game in this stretch is so important and it really kills you missing games and not being out there to help the team. It’s frustrating to not be able to come with a win.”
Arizona won the first two meetings against Nashville this season.
Michael Carcone scored two goals and Cooley had three assists in a 7-5 win in Nashville on Nov. 11, and Clayton Keller scored two goals in a 3-2 victory in Tempe, Ariz., on Jan. 20.
Arizona goalie Connor Ingram started both of those games and is 2-1-1 in four career starts against the Predators with a 3.92 goals-against average and an .895 save percentage.
–Field Level Media
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