Raleigh, NC -- The Carolina Hurricanes (27-10-4, 58pts) and the Nashville Predators (24-19-1, 49pts) meet for the fourth time this season tonight.
Carolina has won the previous three meetings--all coming in March.
However, Nashville enters tonight on a roll; they've won five of their last six--including a 7-2 blowout of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
"[Nashville is] on the same page now, and they're playing really hard," Carolina head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "They're competitive every shift; they've upped the ante there, and they're having [good] results."
For a team that seemed destined to miss the playoffs a month ago, Nashville now holds a four-point lead over Chicago for the final playoff spot in the Central Division.
And while Nashville has a lead in the standings over Chicago and Dallas, who trail them by four points and seven points, respectively, those teams have more games left to play than the Predators.
With only 12 games remaining on their schedule, Nashville will need to make each one count. And five of those games will be against Carolina.
"We're in a fight for the fourth playoff spot," Nashville head coach John Hynes said. "There's a lot to play for."
For Carolina's part, the Canes find themselves in the middle of a three-way tie atop the Central Division standings. Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Florida all have 58 points. Yet, Carolina has one game-in-hand over Tampa Bay and two over Florida.
With 15 games left to be played in less than four weeks, Brind'Amour addressed the upcoming grind.
"We might have [the most remaining games] of any team. There's a lot on the table...So it's going to be physically grinding, but it's also going to be mentally grinding to stay with it."
Petr Mrazek (4-1-1, .943 SV%, 1.47 GAA) will get the start for Carolina. Alex Nedeljkovic will back up the Czech.
Jani Hakanpaa, who arrived via a trade with the Anaheim Ducks for Haydn Fleury, should draw into the lineup tonight.
Hakanpaa will be paired with Jake Bean on the team's third defensive pairing; Jake Gardiner is expected to be a healthy scratch.
"Jani's a great player. Obviously, you can see how big he is and how well he skates and moves," Jake Bean said.
Bean was asked if he saw Fleury, his former defensive partner, after the trade was announced.
"Yeh, it's always tough when someone gets traded mid-season; it's a business, and that's just kind of how it is. I did get to see him before he left...We live in Calgary in the summer, so I'll get to see him then."
Teuvo Teravainen is expected to remain out of the lineup as he recovers from concussion-related symptoms.
"[Teravainen] is a top-end forward that plays a 200-foot game. It really balances the lines out when he's in there," Brind'Amour said. "He covers up for a lot of guys defensively, and [on offense], he has got the skill set to capitalize. So we're missing him; he's a huge loss."
Brock McGinn will also miss tonight's game. Brind'Amour noted that he hoped McGinn would return "sometime this month."
The Canes' expected lines:
Andrei Svechnikov — Sebastian Aho — Jesper Fast
Nino Niederreiter — Vincent Trocheck — Martin Necas
Jordan Martinook — Jordan Staal — Warren Foegele
Cedric Paquette — Steven Lorentz — Morgan Geekie
Jaccob Slavin — Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei — Brett Pesce
Jake Bean — Jani Hakanpaa
Injuries: Teuvo Teravainen (concussion), Brock McGinn (upper body), James Reimer (healthy), Jake Gardiner (healthy)
Nashville's expected lines:
Rocco Grimaldi — Ryan Johansen — Viktor Arvidsson
Calle Jarnkrok — Mikael Granlund — Luke Kunin
Rem Pitlick — Erik Haula — Nick Cousins
Yakov Trenin — Colton Sissons — Tanner Jeannot
Roman Josi — Matt Benning
Mattias Ekholm — Ryan Ellis
Jeremy Davies — Ben Harpur
Injuries: Filip Forsberg (upper body), Eeli Tolvanen (lower body), Dante Fabbro (upper body), Matt Duchene (lower body)