The Predators moved back into the top spot in the Central Division after Tuesday night’s 4-3 shootout victory against the Los Angeles Kings.
With a record of 14-5-2, the Predators have positioned themselves through the first quarter of the season to end a two-year playoff drought.
Here are five reasons Predators fans can be thankful at Thanksgiving heading into Thursday’s matchup against Edmonton at Bridgestone Arena.
1. Rinne’s resurgence: Goalie Pekka Rinne is back in top form, and his hip injury that plagued him the last two seasons appears to be a thing of the past.
He’s been durable in appearing 18 games this season, and his .927 save percentage ranks fifth among goalies who have played at least eight games. His 1.97 goals against average is fourth in the NHL.
His 14 wins after beating Los Angeles tied him for the top spot in the league for victories with Vancouver’s Ryan Miller.
Rinne is even looking good in the shootout — stopping 16 of the 18 shots he’s faced this year in helping the Predators to a 3-1 record in those situations.
2. Peter Laviolette’s vision: The second head coach in franchise history has instilled an aggressive and offensive approach. The players have bought into that mindset and are one of the toughest five-on-five teams to play against in the league.
The Predators have outscored teams 47-28, for a plus-19 goal differential, through 21 games during even strength play after being minus-21 last season.
Nashville has also shown a knack in finding a way to win tight games. The Predators are 9-3-2 in one-goal games this season.
3. The top line: Filip Forsberg. Mike Ribeiro. James Neal.
Together they have formed one of the most dangerous lines in the NHL and have combined for 23 of the team’s 61 goals this season and 53 points.
Forsberg has emerged as an early favorite for the Calder Trophy, leads the team in points (22), and his nine goals are tied with Neal for the team lead.
4. The free agents: It’s time to give the Predators’ free-agent signings credit for their contributions to the team.
Signed to a one-year contract in the offseason, centerman Mike Ribeiro is setting up the goals, and his 12 assists on the team are second only to Forsberg (13).
Veteran Olli Jokinen has been a versatile part in the lineup and helped mentor Calle Jarnkrok by playing wing early in the season. Derek Roy has been an asset as a disciplined two-way defensive player, and he is the only Predator to appear in every game this season without taking a penalty.
Anton Volchenkov has complemented Seth Jones on a defensive pairing as a stay-at-home defenseman with a strong physical presence.
5. The defense: The chemistry between captain Shea Weber and Roman Josi is obvious. The duo may be the best defensive pairing in the NHL, given their special teams versatility and ability to consistently log 26 minutes per game.
Weber leads the defense in points (13), and his assist Tuesday night moved him past Kimmo Timonen for the top spot for assists by a Predators defenseman (223). Josi’s 53 blocked shots are sixth-most in the league.
The defense is a quick, puck-moving group that has shown an ability to thrive in Laviolette’s system. Josi and Ryan Ellis each have 10 points. Ellis had 27 points last season.