Predators Game Day Preview: Nashville @ Anaheim


Ducks blog: Battle of California

TV Coverage: Fox Sports Tennessee (Dish Network 450, DirecTV 644)

Radio: 104.5 "The Zone" (WGFX)

The Nashville Predators play on consecutive nights tonight in Anaheim and tomorrow in San Jose, to complete a four-game road trip that began with victories in Phoenix and Los Angeles. Jason Arnott and Radek Bonk are not expected to play, nor is Wade Belak, who was sent home with an injury yesterday, with Patric Hornqvist recalled from Milwaukee to take his place.

Questions to be answered: (1) Will Patric Hornqvist dress tonight, and get time on an offensively-oriented line? He's been very productive in Milwaukee recently and can hopefully contribute to the attack. (2) Will Dan Ellis get a start in either of these back-to-back games, and if so, which one does he get? Remember that Pekka Rinne did just have a bout of the flu recently, which may not make games on consecutive nights a good idea. (3) Will Saturday's game-winning goal spark Ryan Jones' confidence? Against the physically-aggressive Ducks, his ability to draw penalties and storm the crease will be critical for Nashville.

Predators coming in: Besides the two wins to open this road trip, Nashville has also won the previous two games against Anaheim this year, a 4-3 overtime win on the road November 14th, and a 4-2 home decision on February 5th.

Ducks coming in: Although certainly disappointed having to fight for a playoff spot just two years after hoisting the Stanley Cup, and going through some deep roster turnover at the trading deadline, Anaheim is still a dangerous team, going 2-3-1 in their last 6 games. They currently sit 12th in the Western Conference with 70 points, just five behind Edmonton and Nashville which are in 7th & 8th.

Predators to watch: The hottest Pred might just be Ryan Suter, who is working a seven game point streak (2 goals, 5 assists). Dan Hamhuis has quietly chipped in 10 assists in 24 games since the All-Star break, matching his production through the first 46 games of the season. J.P. Dumont has now topped the 40-assist mark for the 3rd consecutive year, and has 16 points (3 goals, 13 assists) in his last 13 games.

Ducks to watch: Ryan Getzlaf is one of the premier young centers in the NHL, and despite a recent lack of production (1 goal, 2 assists in his last 8) is always a dangerous threat. Rookie forward Bobby Ryan is getting some run as a Calder Trophy candidate based on his 23 goal, 20 assist performance in 51 games.

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

Nashville Anaheim
 Record 35-30-5 18th 32-31-6 23rd
 Pts % .536 18th .507 22nd
 Goals For/Game 2.50 26th 2.71 20th
 Goals Against/Game 2.70 8th 2.88 18th
 5-on-5 GF/GA 0.95 17th 1.04 11th
 PP% 14.1 29th 20.3 9th
 PK% 84.7 3rd 80.7 19th
 Shots/Game 29.2 16th 30.1 10th
 Shots Against/Game 29.3 13th 30.6 19th
 FO % 52.6 3rd 49.8 18th

The opportunity here for Nashville is on special teams; Anaheim doesn't boast a particularly strong penalty kill, and of course they're now without defenseman Kent Huskins, a reliable performer there who was traded away to San Jose.

Let's also take a look at who draws the penalties, and who takes them for each team (data as of March 16):

 Nashville Penalties Drawn Anaheim Penalties Drawn
 Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-  Player Draws Fouls Pen +/-
 Jordin Tootoo 47 42 +5  Corey Perry 46 42 +4
 Martin Erat 24 24 0  Ryan Getzlaf 34 44 -10
 Ryan Jones 23 10 +13  George Parros 24 27 -3
 Dan Hamhuis 21 24 -3  Bobby Ryan 18 11 +7
 Joel Ward 20 11 +9  Teemu Selanne 15 11 +4
 Vern Fiddler 20 9 +11  Todd Marchant 15 11 +4
Penalties Taken Penalties Taken
 Jordin Tootoo 47 42 +5  Ryan Getzlaf 34 44 -10
 Ryan Suter 16 34 -18  Corey Perry 46 42 +4
 Shea Weber 14 32 -18  Chris Pronger 6 33 -27
 Greg de Vries 11 25 -14  George Parros 24 27 -3
 Martin Erat 24 24 0  Scott Niedermayer 12 26 -14
 Dan Hamhuis 21 24 -3  Bret Hedican 4 18 -14

The key here would seem to be for the Preds to aggressively drive the net, and maintain discipline in order to draw penalties. The Ducks are #4 in the NHL in terms of the number of times they've had to go on the penalty kill, and that appears to be their greatest weakness.

Lastly, here's a look at the goaltenders for each team:

2008 - Dan Ellis 35 1965 11 19 4 5 96 2.93 963 867 .900 3
2008 - Pekka Rinne 40 2259 24 11 1 4 84 2.23 1078 994 .922 7

2008 - Jean-Sebastien Giguere 42 2285 17 17 5 3 119 3.12 1202 1083 .901 2
2008 - Jonas Hiller 35 1857 15 14 1 5 72 2.33 900 828 .920 4

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