Game Day Preview: New York Rangers @ Nashville Predators

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The New York Rangers make a rare trip to Nashville tonight for a date with the Preds. The last time the Blueshirts came to town was December 8, 2005, when New York won 5-1. Both teams are battling alongside other teams for available playoff spots, so expect two highly motivated teams to take the ice this evening.

Questions to be answered: (1) Can Sean Avery behave himself? The last time he was in town (with Dallas on October 11) he cheap-shotted Dan Hamhuis and (allegedly) went way overboard in a verbal exchange with a fan. Let's see how well the NHL-mandated Ludovico Technique works for the Rangers pest. (2) Can the Preds successfully conclude a strong string of home games (5-0-2) before heading out west to play Phoenix, L.A., Anaheim & San Jose? (3) Will Pekka Rinne and Jason Arnott return to action? Rinne was out with the flu earlier this week, and Arnott left Tuesday's game early in the 3rd, without any further explanation from the team.

Rangers coming in: New York won three straight before getting shut out 3-0 at Carolina on Monday. Overall, the team is 3-2-1 since John Tortorella took over behind the bench on February 23rd.

Predators coming in: After lighting up the scoreboard in a torrid 5-game homestand, Nashville has scored just once in each of the least two games, a 4-1 defeat at Philadelphia last Saturday, and a 2-1 overtime loss to Washington on Tuesday.

Rangers to watch: Sean Avery is sure to be a center of attention, not just for the feisty manner with which he plays the game, but all the controversy he ignites off the ice. So far he has 1 assist and 8 penalty minutes in 3 Rangers games. Former Blue Jacket Nikolai Zherdev is the Rangers leading scorer with 19 goals and 31 assists, maintaining the career-best scoring pace he set with Columbus last season.

Preds to watch: While the team's scoring has taken a dive, Shea Weber has recorded an assist in each of the last two games. If Dan Ellis gets another start, look for him to follow up on a very strong outing against the Caps.

Here's a look at the two teams in the main statistical categories, along with overall NHL rank:

  Rangers Predators
 Record 34-25-8 14th 33-29-5 18th
 Pts % 0.567 13th 0.53 18th
 Goals For/Game 2.36 30th 2.49 27th
 Goals Against/Game 2.66 25th 2.72 21st
 5-on-5 GF/GA 0.87 23rd 0.95 16th
 PP% 14.4 27th 14.0 29th
 PK% 87.2 2nd 84.5 4th
 Shots/Game 32.0 7th 29.2 16th
 Shots Against/Game 30.0 14th 29.4 19th
 FO % 49.8 17th 52.9 3rd

Wow, this could be an ugly one; two "minimalist" offenses, two lousy power plays, and two great penalty-killing groups. And folks, if you thought the Nashville PP was bad, the Rangers have been worse; not only do they score rarely, but they've given up a league-high 13 shorthanded goals this season, including one when they had the 5-on-3 advantage (they're the only NHL team to accomplish that feat). Any chance that Steve Sullivan sees some PK work tonight?

And finally, a look at who draws the penalties, and who takes them for each team.

 New York Penalties Drawn Nashville Penalties Drawn
 Player Draws Fouls Pen +/- Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-
 Brandon Dubinsky 32 30 +2  Jordin Tootoo 45 40 +5
 Scott Gomez 31 23 +8  Martin Erat 22 24 -2
 Aaron Voros 31 36 -5  Ryan Jones 22 9 +13
 Ryan Callahan 28 16 +12  Dan Hamhuis 21 23 -2
 Colton Orr 28 36 -8  Joel Ward 20 10 +10
 Sean Avery 25 21 +4  Vern Fiddler 20 7 +13
  Penalties Taken   Penalties Taken
  Draws Fouls Pen +/- Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-
 Aaron Voros 31 36 -5  Jordin Tootoo 45 40 +5
 Colton Orr 28 36 -8  Ryan Suter 16 33 -17
 Brandon Dubinsky 32 30 +2  Shea Weber 14 32 -18
 Paul Mara 19 27 -8  Martin Erat 22 24 -2
 Scott Gomez 31 23 +8  Greg de Vries 11 24 -13
 Michal Rozsival 15 23 -8  Dan Hamhuis 21 23 -2
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