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Nashville Predators are 16-0-2 since their trip to see U2 in Vegas was canceled

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Barry Trotz watched his Nashville Predators lose a game at home 9-2, their second consecutive defeat and a third poor effort in a row and he decided they’d be better without a trip to see U2 perform at the Sphere in Las Vegas.

Trotz talked it over with coach Andrew Brunette, called captain Roman Josi to tell him the plan to go to Vegas early was off and pulled the plug because the team’s play wasn’t up to par.

“Just as a team, you have to earn the right,” Trotz recalled. “It’s a big expense, and we said, ‘No, it’s not acceptable,’ and we made a decision to come back.”

They didn’t get to see Bono, but the Predators have enjoyed plenty of beautiful days since.

They’ve gone 16-0-2 in their past 18 games, the longest point streak in franchise history or of anyone in the NHL this season. This stretch has shored up Nashville’s playoff positioning after looking to be on the bubble for several months.

“I think you see a galvanized group that have made a commitment to playing consistently,” Trotz, in his first year as general manager after a lengthy stint as coach of the team from its inception through 2014, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “They’ve played the right way and they’ve stayed focused. And they prepare to compete every game to win.”

Their latest trick was erasing a three-goal deficit at the second intermission and winning in overtime Tuesday night, fittingly against the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, who play down the Strip from the Sphere.

“We never stop,” forward Gustav Nyquist told reporters afterward. “This team never stops. We believe in ourselves.”

That belief is easy to justify given Nashville has scored more than four goals a game and allowed fewer than two since this run began. The power play is clicking at 24% and the penalty kill over 84%.

“Our confidence is high,” said winger Filip Forsberg, who leads the team with 40 goals. “We keep working, keep wearing teams down.”

At the forefront of that process is Josi, who scored the overtime winner against Vegas — his 24th point over the past 18 games — and is generating some Hart Trophy buzz as league MVP. Forsberg said Josi should be considered for that and the Norris as the top defenseman.

Brunette said the game Tuesday was another reminder that the Predators shouldn’t take Josi for granted.

“We kind of get spoiled with him,” Brunette said. “He just takes your team on his back and goes.”

Not to be overlooked also is the goaltending of Juuse Saros, who has a 1.92 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in this stretch. Trotz said Saros and backup Kevin Lankinen have done their part behind strong 5-on-5 play.

“They’ve made timely saves and been very good,” Trotz said. “When (things) have broken down, I think we’ve gotten really timely saves and they’ve been really good in big moments. When a game is teetering a bit, they’ve been really good.”

The Predators are at 94 points — just four back of the Central Division third-place Winnipeg Jets, whom they trailed by 13 points when this run began. But with the playoffs less than a month away, players are eager to say they haven’t accomplished anything yet.

“We still know that there’s tons of hockey left to be played: 10 games, lots of points on the board,” Nyquist said. “We’ve put ourselves in a good spot, but we’re not in by any measure, in the playoffs, yet, so we’ve got lots of work to do still.”

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

By STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Hockey Writer

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