After a fast start that put them atop the NHL standings going into this week, the Nashville Predators are experiencing their first real adversity.
They limped home from a five-game road trip at 2-2-1 after a 2-1 defeat Thursday night in Arizona, their third straight loss. And the Predators are facing life without two of their key players, one for an extended stretch and the other for at least two more games.
The good news is that they're back at Bridgestone Arena for eight of the next nine games, beginning Saturday night when they face the Los Angeles Kings.
Nashville (13-5-1) learned Thursday that it will go without left winger Viktor Arvidsson for 6 to 8 weeks after he broke his thumb Nov. 10 during a 5-4 overtime win in Dallas. Arvidsson has eight goals and five assists in 13 games, trailing only Filip Forsberg on the team in goals, and is widely recognized as the engine of the JOFA line centered by Ryan Johansen.
While the Predators have enough depth to get by without Arvidsson short term, his speed and max effort can't easily be replicated over the long haul.
"He does a lot of good things and plays in a lot of situations for us, so that's a tough blow," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "But it's an opportunity for somebody to step up, and I think we've got enough guys inside of the room to cover something like this."
The Predators must also do without All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban, who was placed on injured reserve Thursday with a lower-body injury. Veteran Dan Hamhuis was activated off IR to replace him before the game in Arizona and logged 18:42 of ice time in his return, recording a hit.
Nashville carried play to the Coyotes most of the game, outshooting them 46-23, but lost for the fifth time in its last six visits to Gila River Arena. Its power play went 0 for 5, dropping the percentage to a league-worst 10.8 percent.
"It was just one of those nights and it happens throughout the season," captain Roman Josi said. "We just have to keep doing the same things the next game, and hopefully, it'll go in."
Los Angeles (6-11-1) got into Nashville in the early hours of Saturday morning after winning 2-1 Friday night in a shootout at Chicago. Rookie goalie Cal Petersen made 34 saves to earn the victory in his NHL debut, while Anze Kopitar secured the decision with a shootout goal.
Petersen is the fourth goalie the Kings have used in 18 games. Starter Jonathan Quick and backup Jack Campbell are both on IR with meniscus (knee) injuries, and veteran Peter Budaj has been shaky in limited action over two games.
"It was a moment that I've thought about for a really long time," Petersen said of the win. "I'm just really glad and honored it came while I was wearing a Kings uniform."
Los Angeles is 2-3-0 under interim coach Willie Desjardins, who took over after John Stevens was fired two weeks ago.