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Predators, Jets risk winning streaks in divisional meeting

A pair of Central Division rivals will put their winning streaks on the line on Sunday night when the host Nashville Predators face the Winnipeg Jets.

Nashville found itself mired in a four-game skid earlier in the month, but it responded emphatically, putting together a four-game winning streak in which it has outscored opponents 20-10.

In their most recent victory, the Predators got two goals and an assist from both Luke Evangelista and Filip Forsberg in Friday's 8-3 rout of the St. Louis Blues. Nashville jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before putting the game away with another three goals in the first six minutes of the second period.

Predators coach Andrew Brunette has noticed a shift in his team's mentality.

"I think we've really been focusing on the process. We left a lot of points on the board in the first part of the year and part of it was a little bit of puck luck," Brunette said. "Part of it was we were beating ourselves. I think we're maturing a little bit as a group and understanding different parts of the game and we really have to make sure we're extremely sharp."

Forsberg has been among those headlining Nashville's recent run of success, as he has 12 points (nine goals, three assists) in his past seven games.

Connor Hellebuyck will likely be the one tasked with trying to slow down Forsberg and the Predators, and there's a good chance he'll be up for the challenge.

Hellebuyck 14-8-2 with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in 25 career games vs. Nashville.

Winnipeg is riding a five-game winning streak, and Hellebuyck is a big reason why. He's collected four of those victories, including Friday's, a 3-0 decision against the Florida Panthers. Hellebuyck made 33 saves in recording his first shutout of the season and the 33rd of his career.

Friday also marked the first game back for Jets coach Rick Bowness, who had been away from the team since Oct. 23 to be with his wife, Judy, after she suffered a seizure.

"It was awesome just having him around. His energy lifts the team," Hellebuyck said of having Bowness back behind the bench. "I am happy to have him around and happy his family is doing good."

Like the Predators, Winnipeg is also starting to see its game evolving during the winning streak.

"I think we are realizing there is a chess match to be played and we are willing to do it," Hellebuyck said. "We're learning there is multiple ways to our game."

Juuse Saros is expected to be in net for Nashville. He is 4-6-3 with a 2.54 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 13 career games against the Jets.

Saros wasn't between the pipes for the win over St. Louis, but he was when the Predators clipped the Flames 4-2 on Wednesday. He made 24 saves in that contest.

Winnipeg has a three-game winning streak vs. Nashville, most recently beating it 6-3 on Nov. 9. Jets forward Kyle Connor single-handedly kept up with the Predators in that meeting by recording a hat trick.

--Field Level Media

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