The Nashville Predators survived Filip Forsberg's nine-game absence reasonably well and then struggled in his return on Wednesday.
As Forsberg continues to integrate himself back into the lineup, the Predators hope to produce a better showing Friday night when they host the New Jersey Devils.
Nashville went 5-3-1 in Forsberg's absence with an upper-body injury. During that span, the Predators won three one-goal games and scored 24 goals as Matt Duchene scored nine of his 12 goals in that span.
Forsberg's six goals are tied for the second most on the team and he scored twice in his return. Forsberg has five goals in his past five contests. The Predators were unbeaten in the previous three games he scored in until seeing their four-game home winning streak stopped with a 5-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.
Forsberg scored twice in a span of 8:31 during the third period as Nashville already trailed by three goals through the first 40 minutes.
"Not good enough," Forsberg said. "I think we kind of shot ourselves in the foot by not executing. Obviously, a handful of their goals were kind of given to them, and the power play definitely has to step up, too. It's been working really well, but today was not the best effort overall."
"There are some things in his game he needs to clean up," Predators coach John Hynes said. "It is tough when you are off that long and away from the team, but he was firing the puck and that is a big strength of his."
The Devils are 2-2-2 in their past six games since scoring 11 goals against the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders in the final two games of their three-game winning streak Nov. 6-11.
They have experienced a mixed bag of performances since then with two shootout losses and a pair of three-goal defeats.
Their first shootout loss was a 4-3 decision to the New York Rangers on Nov. 14 when they scored the first goal. On Wednesday, the Devils took a 3-2 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild in a game where they took 42 shots on goal. But they also went 0-for-4 on the power play and hit four goalposts while allowing 27 shots.
Pavel Zacha scored New Jersey's first goal early in the third and Yegor Sharangovich scored with the extra attacker with 67 seconds left after the Devils could not score on a 5-on-3 a few minutes earlier.
"We did have a couple of good looks. We did have a couple that was frustrating on the entry," Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. "We made some tough decisions, but that's stuff that we're just going to continue to keep working on. I think we hit a post on a power player, I think we hit an open net on a power play. We've just got to keep believing that if we keep working at it, it's going to get better."
Friday is the first meeting since Forsberg and Duchene scored in the shootout to give Nashville a 6-5 home win on Jan. 30, 2020, for the Predators' fourth straight win over New Jersey.
--Field Level Media