Survival.

That’s the name of the game for the Nashville Predators right now as they hit a crucial stretch of the season without four of their top playmakers in Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Kyle Turris and P.K. Subban.

The Predators had to do a bit of surviving in the second period of Monday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres as well. After dominating the first period, the Sabres began to dominate more of possession in the second period and tied the game up. For a few minutes, Buffalo continued to hold court in the offensive zone thanks to a couple of power play opportunities.

ships n tripsThe momentum would be short-lived, as Kevin Fiala added what would become the game-winner with less than five minutes to go in the second period, giving the Predators at 2-1 win.

Without some key playmakers that could have perhaps shifted the momentum with one highlight-reel play, the Predators still found a way to squeeze out points from this game.

capitol-ins-2“I don’t think it was so much surviving, more just we had to get back to our game,” Ellis said of the team’s effort in the second period. “I think they took it to us, and they were playing quicker, a little bit faster, winning some battles. It was more about what we did. Obviously, they have some good players and they’re going to make plays. We picked it up near the end and locked away the points.”

Graph via Natural Stat Trick

Nashville was stout defensively throughout the night, limiting the Sabres to very few scoring chances in the third period. However, in the second period, the Sabres were all over them, getting seven high-danger scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.

That’s when Nashville’s backstopper in Pekka Rinne had to come up big.

“Peks made a couple of really good saves,” defenseman Roman Josi said. “They had some zone time there in the second period, dominated the game for a little bit, and Peks made some really good saves. I think we found a way to get out of that, especially in the third, I thought we played really well and had our chances too and defended really well.”

Certain players have stepped up in the wake of injuries to key players. Fiala has chosen an opportune time to shake his demons and get some pucks to hit the back of the net. Ryan Ellis netted his second goal of the year in the first period to give the Predators the early lead.

All of this contributes to the way the Predators have been able to play the game with a depleted lineup, which is not all that different from the way they usually play at full strength.

“We’re trying to play the same way,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “I still think you need to be on the attack. You can’t just sit back and defend. The shots have been up, we’ve been outshooting and generating and chancing opponents as we play them here. For the last eight to 10 games with a lot of key pieces out of the lineup, I just think it’s important that we stay with our identity. But, we also understand that there’s less room for error and we have to make sure that we’re sharp.”

Now, the Predators hit the road to take on the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, two teams that will be difficult to slow down in the offensive zone. If more unsung heroes continue to step to the plate and give the Predators a boost with a shorthanded group, then the team should be just fine

“The depleted lineup, the guys that are out, we obviously miss them,” Ellis said. “But two good hockey team coming in here the last couple of games and the way we respond with our depth and a lot of guys stepping up playing really well tonight and in the previous game. We’re going to need more of that with the bodies we’re missing.”

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