NASHVILLE - For the first time since he was fired three games into last season, Peter Laviolette, now the head coach of the Nashville Predators, will face the Flyers on Saturday night in Music City.
Jake Voracek can't wait.
"I'm sure he's going to be pretty fired up," said Voracek, the Flyers' coming-of-age right winger who leads the NHL with 46 points, "and I'm pretty excited about it."
The Flyers will make their fourth stop on a critical eight-game road trip. They are 3-0 on the trip, averaging 5.3 goals per game.
Extending their winning streak to a season-high four straight will be difficult. Nashville, in its first season under Laviolette, is 22-9-2 and in second place in the Central Division.
"He's doing a great job there. They've been hot and playing really well," said winger Wayne Simmonds, who leads the Flyers with 15 goals. "It's going to be a challenge for us. It's another step we have to take as a team. We're going to go in there for our fourth [road] game in a row and we have to be prepared."
Winger Matt Read called Laviolette "a smart, offensive-minded coach" and a "good motivational speaker. He's had some success in Nashville, and it'll be good to see him on the other side of the bench."
Read said he will always have a special feeling for Laviolette because he gave him a chance to crack the lineup.
"When I came into the league, he was my first coach and gave me the opportunity," said Read, who rewarded Laviolette by scoring 24 goals as a rookie in 2011-12. "I'm thankful he gave me that opportunity and I'm looking forward to playing against him. You never know, if he wasn't there, would I have been given an opportunity to play or been in the AHL?"
Laviolette's Predators are built around defense - specifically, goalie Pekka Rinne and defenseman Shea Weber. The Preds are allowing just 2.09 goals per game, placing them second in the NHL, behind only Chicago's 2.03.
Among goalies who have played in at least 15 games, Rinne leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.84), save percentage (.934), and wins (22). Weber, who was almost a Flyer two years ago, anchors the defense, averaging 26 minutes, 26 seconds of ice time per game (fifth in the NHL), and has 21 points.
In 2012, Nashville matched the Flyers' 14-year, $110 million offer sheet to Weber, causing him to remain with the Predators.
Center Filip Forsberg, a Calder Trophy candidate acquired (read: stolen) from Washington last April for veteran winger Martin Erat and a minor-league prospect, leads NHL rookies in goals (13) and points (32), and his plus-24 rating is tops in the NHL.
Laviolette served three full seasons and parts of two others with the Flyers and had a 145-98-29 record, leading them to an improbable run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals in his first season with the team.
"He did a lot of good things for us," defenseman Nick Grossmann said.
But the Flyers got progressively worse, and he was fired after starting 0-3 last season. The previous year, the Flyers missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 seasons
"Obviously, the ending here wasn't what everybody wanted," Voracek said. "Everybody wanted him to stay, but the way we played wasn't a great ending for him or us. It was our responsibility."
Added Voracek, who is on an impressive 111-point pace: "I played for him for two years and I had a lot of fun. I had a great time and I was very happy to come to the rink. He's a good coach, and a great guy, but it's a business and changes happen. That's hockey."