Nashville acquired Peter Forsberg from the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, hoping the superstar center who has been slowed by numerous injuries in recent years can regain his MVP form.
"This is a huge deal for our franchise," general manager David Poile said in a conference call Thursday night from St. Louis, where the Predators play Friday.
"It's certainly, I think, a clear message also to our community that we are aiming to be the best that we can be, and we certainly hope this translates to ... more fan support in our community."
The Predators have lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. They were 39-16-3 going into Friday and atop the Western Conference, a point ahead of Detroit in the Central Division and a point behind Buffalo for the overall NHL lead.
Daniel Briere scored 62 seconds into overtime for the Sabres to seal a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers, but Buffalo lost flashy forward Maxim Afinogenov and rookie Jiri Novotny.
Afinogenov will miss six weeks after breaking his left wrist, and Novotny is out indefinitely after aggravating a left ankle injury.
"It's going to make things a lot tougher. We're going to have to dig in," coach Lindy Ruff said. "You've got to grind your way through it."
Afinogenov was hurt late in the second period when he fell and landed awkwardly. And yet he returned for one more shift to score his 23th goal, tying the game at 1 by converting Thomas Vanek's rebound. Tests taken during the second intermission revealed the break.
Novotny was hurt with 7 minutes left when he twisted his ankle while checking Matt Greene into the end boards.
The injuries come a week after Buffalo lost forward Paul Gaustad (torn tendon) for the season, and defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (broken left hand) for about a month.
Afinogenov's loss is the biggest blow. He ranked second on the team with 57 points after leading the Sabres with 73 points (22 goals, 51 assists) last year. Novotny was a regular fourth-liner who had six goals and seven assists in 50 games.
Nashville, the Western Conference leaders, dealt forward Scottie Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent and two draft picks to Philadelphia for Forsberg, whose lingering right foot injury has kept him from committing to the Flyers longterm.
"I liked it here and everything, it's just hard when I couldn't commit and that's why they had to move me," Forsberg said. "I understand that."
The 33-year-old Swede, in the final months of a two-year, $11.5 million contract, had 11 goals and 29 assists in 40 games for the Flyers this season, his second with Philadelphia after 10 years with Quebec and Colorado.
Forsberg, a late scratch for Philadelphia's 4-2 loss to Toronto on Thursday night, has three goals and nine assists in the last nine games.
"We didn't want to do it, he knows we didn't want to do it, but at the end of the day we had to do it," Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said.
Avalanche 7, Flames 5
At Calgary, Alberta , Joe Sakic scored twice, including his 600th career goal, and added three assists to lead Colorado.
Sakic reached the 600-goal mark by scoring into an empty net, becoming the 17th player in NHL history to get there.
Milan Hejduk had three goals for the Avalanche, which has won two straight. Andrew Brunette added a goal and an assist and Brett Clark scored.
Jarome Iginla and Matthew Lombardi had two goals each for Calgary, while Craig Conroy finished with a goal and an assist. Former Avalanche forward Alex Tanguay added three assists.
Ducks 5, Coyotes 4, OT
At Glendale, Ariz., Teemu Selanne scored his second goal on a power play with 3:07 left in overtime, and Anaheim rallied from a three-goal deficit.
Chris Pronger also scoretwice and Dustin Penner added a goal for the Ducks.
Mathias Tjarnqvist, Keith Ballard, Owen Nolan and Oleg Saprykin scored for Phoenix.
Rangers 4, Hurricanes 1
At Raleigh, N.C., Karel Rachunek and Michael Nylander each had a goal and assist and New York won its third straight game.
Brendan Shanahan and Pascal Dupuis, in his Rangers debut, also scored for New York.
Andrew Ladd scored for the Hurricanes.
Maple Leafs 4, Flyers 2
At Philadelphia, Mats Sundin had a goal and an assist to help Toronto snap a three-game losing streak.
Jeff O'Neill, Niki Antropov, and Carlo Colaiacovo also scored for the Maple Leafs. Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble scored for the Flyers.
Islanders 4, Bruins 1
At Uniondale, N.Y., Mike Sillinger got the go-ahead goal midway through the third period to lift New York to a key victory.
Sillinger also got the only assist on Jeff Tambellini's first goal of the season in the opening period.
New York, starting its second seven-game homestand of the season, moved into a three-way tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Carolina.
Rick DiPietro made 24 saves and Randy Robitaille sealed the win with an empty-net goal.
Glen Murray scored for Boston and Tim Thomas finished with 34 saves.
Lightning 3, Capitals 2, SO
At Tampa, Fla., Vincent Lecavalier scored two goals and Martin St. Louis had the lone shootout goal for Tampa Bay.
Lecavalier has a career-high 39 goals, three shy of Brian Bradley's team record set during the 1992-93 season. Lecavalier has scored a goal in 15 of 19 games.
Washington's Dainius Zubrus forced overtime when he scored from the slot after a turnover by Tampa Bay with 14.9 seconds left in the third period.
The Lightning have won 14 of 17 and are one point behind the Southeast Division-leading Atlanta Thrashers.
Alexander Semin scored his 30th goal for the Capitals.