Alex Radulov's first NHL goal in four years wasn't nearly enough to get Nashville back on track in its last game and the Predators will try to avoid a fifth loss in six games when it hosts the desperate Winnipeg Jets tonight at Bridgestone Arena.
Nashville visited Pittsburgh on Thursday and the Predators fell to 1-3-1 in their last five games after getting dealt a 5-1 setback by the red-hot Penguins.
The rout spoiled Radulov's return to the NHL after he left Nashville for Russia's Kontinental Hockey League following the 2007-08 season. Radulov, who caused a stir by ignoring the final year of his entry-level contract with the Predators, officially re-joined the Predators earlier this week to honor the final season of his contract.
Radulov, who won two MVPs while playing for Salavat Yulayev in the KHL, is expected to return to the Russian league next season.
Radulov cut the lead to 4-1 in the second period on Thursday, scoring his first NHL goal since April 14, 2008, in a playoff game against Detroit. It was his first regular-season goal since he scored two, also against Detroit, on March 20 that year.
"For all he's gone through in the last 10 or 12 days, I thought he was fine," Predators coach Barry Trotz said of Radulov's first game back.
Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne gave up five goals on 23 shots and is stuck on 39 wins for the season.
The Predators, who are 23-9-5 as the host this year, enter today's action in a tie with Chicago for the Western Conference's fifth seed. Detroit is just one point in front of the Preds and Blackhawks in the conference standings. The Red Wings play tonight against visiting Carolina while Chicago is idle before hosting the Predators tomorrow.
Nashville has played the last four games without centerman Paul Gaustad, who is dealing with an upper-body issue, but he is expected to return tonight. Fellow forward Colin Wilson has sat out the same stretch with a groin injury and is questionable for tonight.
The Jets, meanwhile, will try to build off the momentum of Friday's thrilling comeback win in Washington when they take the ice tonight. Winnipeg trailed the Capitals by a 3-0 count in the second period before rallying to claim a 4-3 overtime decision.
It was an important two points for Winnipeg, which is sitting 10th in the East and is four points behind the Capitals and Buffalo for the conference's last playoff spot. Both Washington and the Sabres are in action on Saturday.
Tim Stapleton's tally with 2:23 left in OT capped Friday's comeback win for the Jets. Stapleton beat Michal Neuvirth with a high, quick wrister from the left circle to end the contest.
Bryan Little and Ben Maxwell also scored for the Jets, while Ondrej Pavelec needed to make just 20 stops for the win. The Jets outshot the Capitals by a combined 19-2 in the final 22:37 of the contest.
"I think it was our belief system. We didn't really waver. I think we recognized there was a lot of hockey to be played," said Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel.
The Jets, who are closing a three-game road trip tonight, are just 12-20-4 as the visiting team this season compared to a 23-11-4 home mark. Winnipeg will host its next two games against Ottawa and the New York Rangers before heading back out on a four-game swing.
On the injury front for Winnipeg, Eric Fehr has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, while fellow forward Nik Antropov has sat out two in a row with a lower-body issue. Both players are questionable for tonight's game.
The Predators are facing the Jets for the first time since the franchise relocated last summer from Atlanta, where the club was known as the Thrashers. Nashville has taken three of four and five of seven in this series overall and Atlanta was just 2-5 in seven all-time trips to the Music City.