Game Day Preview: Nashville Predators @ Ottawa Senators

It's the old "out of the frying pan, into the fire" for the 2-5-1 Predators tonight  as they continue their road trip against the 5-2 Ottawa Senators.

The last time the Preds visited Ottawa (11/29/07), they enjoyed two huge wins; on the ice, they beat the Senators 6-5, while off the ice, the NHL Board of Governors approved the sale of the team to the current ownership group.

But enough reminiscing, let's get down to the matchups and see if there's a hero ready to step forward for Nashville...

Meet the Enemy

There was some murmuring that lingering injury concerns might keep star center Jason Spezza out of the lineup tonight, but it appears that he's ready to go. The big story over the summer, obviously, was the Dany Heatley saga, in which the prolific goal-scorer demanded a trade out of town, then tied his GM's hands by refusing to go to Edmonton once a deal was struck. Eventually he landed in San Jose, in exchange for Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek, and a second-round draft pick.

Michalek, at least, is off to a decent start with 4 goals in 7 games, while Cheechoo has just two assists. The other new face in town is winger Alex Kovalev, signed as a free agent for two years; he's tallied three goals and one assist so far.

The projected lines, courtesy of Silver Seven:

Kovalev-Fisher-Alfredsson
Michalek-Spezza-Cheechoo
Foligno-Regin-Neil
Ruutu-Shannon-Kelly
(inj: Winchester)
 
Phillips-Volchenkov
Picard-Karlsson
Carkner-Campoli
(inj: Kuba)

Meet the Good Guys

Splitting up the defense pair of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber appeared to pay dividends last night in Boston; the Preds were more consistently driving the play into the Bruins' end, and during the final minutes as Nashville became desperate for a tying goal, the pair was reunited to maximum effect.

Up front, the story continues to be an astounding lack of production from key players. The only goals last night both came due to forwards charging the net (David Legwand driving with Jerred Smithson shooting home a loose puck, Colin Wilson finishing a rebound chance from Patric Hornqvist). Can that formula be built upon to at least generate some short-term results? Nashville's high-skill forwards (Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat, and J.P. Dumont) have combined for a paltry two goals (both deflected in off opponents' skates), 0 assists, and 16 shots over the last three games.

Your Predators lineup:

Sullivan - O'Reilly -  Dumont

 Erat - Legwand Ward

Scatchard - WilsonHornqvist

Jones - Smithson - Goc

Bouillon Weber

Suter - Klein

Franson - Sulzer

Even Strength Play

 TEAM GP TOI GF GA GF/60 SF/60 Sht % GA/60 SA/60 Save Pct. +/- per 60
 Ottawa 7 320.6 16 13 3.0 31.2 9.60% 2.4 25.1 .903 0.6
 Nashville 8 389.4 10 17 1.5 25.1 6.10% 2.6 29.7 .912 -1.1

5-on-5 data from Behind the Net

Fairly daunting numbers so far, as Ottawa's offense is banging out twice as many goals, while giving up fewer than Nashville. The bright spot for the Preds has been goaltending. On defense, the team has settled down after blowout losses last week, but the offense is still lacking.

Ottawa PP vs. Nashville PK

The Senators, who enjoyed such a dynamic power play thanks to the Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson trio for the last few years, have fallen on hard times with the man advantage so far, puttering along at an 11.5% clip that is 29th in the NHL. Nashville's penalty kill is also uncharacteristically poor, ranking 28th with a 69.2% rate. They did fend off both chances in Boston last night.

Nashville PP vs. Ottawa PK

As mentioned above, Ottawa's PK is disappointing at 11.5%; for a bit of perspective that makes them more than 3 times as effective as Nashville, which is suffering through a laughably-bad 3.7% after last night's 0-for-3.

They might want to try Scatchard-Smithson-Belak up front, with Bouillon and Sulzer on the points, just to see what happens.

Goaltending

Remember at the end of the 2007-8 season, when the Columbus Blue Jackets were giddy over their amazing young goaltender, Pascal Leclaire? Well, a year later, they dumped Leclaire in favor of the next great thing, Steve Mason. Leclaire has gotten off to a good start in Ottawa, and may be able to settle down a goaltending situation that has been chaotic for many years.


Pascal Leclaire

#33 / Goalie / Ottawa Senators

6-2

200

Nov 07, 1982

GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Pascal Leclaire 6 359 4 2 13 2.17 158 145 .918 0


Based on the fact that he was good, but not particularly outstanding in goal last night, I'm guessing that Dan Ellis gets a rest tonight in favor of Pekka Rinne. Barry Trotz has gone to keeping his goalie selection a secret until closer to game time.


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

206

Nov 03, 1982

GP MIN W L T EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Pekka Rinne 4 191 0 3 11 3.46 104 93 .894 0

Summary

The road is getting tougher,with a top-notch opponent tonight, and a Saturday night game at Chicago coming up next. Nashville has plenty of questions, but few answers at the present time.

All we do know, is that the Predators need a hero tonight... do you think Bonnie Tyler might be able to pop in a few goals?


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