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:
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|