Viktor Arvidsson couldn’t have planned a better birthday present for himself.
Back in the lineup after sustaining an injury in Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators star right winger scored his third career hat trick Thursday night as the Predators blanked the Detroit Red Wings 7-1.
“Oh absolutely, it was awesome; it's up there for birthdays, I guess,” Arvidsson said with a smile after the win. “I think we played well…we worked hard and got rewarded for it.”
After struggling with injuries and a goal drought that reached as many as 15 games, Arvidsson has been red-hot for Nashville lately, tallying six goals and 10 points over his last 17 games.
Arvidsson’s resurgence is a sight for sore eyes as the Predators have desperately needed more production from everyone with the team’s injury list nearing double digits.
“I’ve been around the net a lot and trying to create chances,” Arvidsson said. “I’ve had bounces not going my way, and I think today, they did. I think I played well, and I’ve just got to keep it going.”
Mikael Granlund, Eric Haula, Nick Cousins and Yakov Trenin all chipped in with goals as well, as the Predators pushed their win streak to three with wins in 11 of their last 13 overall.
Nashville (45 points) extended its lead over the Chicago Blackhawks (41 points) for fourth place in the Central Division with 15 games left -- a far cry from three weeks ago when the Predators looked dead in the water and teetering near the bottom of the division.
“We realized we’re not consistent enough with our effort, and now we are” Arvidsson said. “We bring it every single night…we work for each other…we work for the guy next to us. I think that’s a huge thing to do in the NHL. You’ve got to outwork the opponents to win games.”
Added Predators coach John Hynes: “I think the road trip was definitely a turning point. Part of being a really good team is getting to know each other, and enjoying time together away from the rink, and building trust, building relationships [with the players and families] …you never really had an opportunity to do that [before the road trip].”
What makes Nashville’s recent run even more impressive is the rookie-heavy lineup the Predators have been rolling with for the better part of a month. The team has been without Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, Ryan Ellis, Mark Borowiecki and Brad Richardson for some time, and recently added Alex Carrier, Dante Fabbro and Eeli Tolvanen to the injury list as well.
The Predators have played an NHL-high 12 rookies this year and have shuffled around 13 defensemen as well. Tyler Lewington made his Predators debut on Thursday, while newly-signed defenseman David Farrance made his NHL debut as well.
“It's a tight race all the way to the end, but you've got to give kudos to all the guys stepping in,” Haula added. “We have a lot of first this year and a lot of young guys, and they're all stepping in and playing well and contributing, so it's been awesome to watch."
With the NHL trade deadline coming up on Monday, general manager David Poile has some tough decisions to make. The 71-year-old GM has to gauge how much of his run is a flash in the pan and if his team is better served selling off some players and stockpiling future assets.
Defenseman Mattias Ekholm is likely to stay put now, whereas a month ago the 30-year-old was linked to at least a half-dozen teams in trade talks. Others such as Haula, Cousins and Granlund, who’s been one of the Predators’ best players under Hynes, are the likeliest candidates to be traded, if the team makes any moves.
Granlund has been mentioned in trade talks with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will be without star forward William Nylander for another seven days.