The Anaheim Ducks return to town this evening for a battle against the Nashville Predators, who are coming off a win against Carolina that saw them lose Steve Sullivan and Jason Arnott to injury. Hopefully Sully and Arnott will be in the lineup tonight, but in the meantime, the boys have an important game to win with another tough Western Canada swing up next.
Continue after the jump where we break down the matchup and Pekka Rinne shockingly gets two starts in a row...
Nashville coming in:
Against Carolina the Predators failed to come out of the gate well, giving up an early goal and taking too many penalties, but fortunately recovered in time to win the game. That won't be good enough against the Ducks, who have a much stronger squad, record notwithstanding.
Even without quite a few impact players, Nashville is managing to turn around the PK (went a 4th straight game without allowing a PP marker) and has 3 power play goals in two games. Those are encouraging signs for the Preds, especially with Anaheim in town who boast a terrific power play.
So with that, the keys to the game for Nashville will be the improved penalty kill and their first period play. If those things can be accomplished, they'll be able to have some Duck for dinner. Jason Arnott and Joel Ward are questionable, Steve Sullivan and Martin Erat are probable, and Cal O'Reilly will slide into Mike Santorelli's spot.
Anaheim coming in:
The Ducks are on a mini-streak, having beaten Detroit and St. Louis before flying in to Nashville. Since last Saturday, they've returned Ryan Getzlaf, arguably their best offensive player, and will return notorious Pred-killer Teemu Selanne in tonight's game to go with other offensive studs Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan. The Ducks can beat you defensively too, however, with Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Whitney, and James Wisniewski. Anaheim is most successful when they can get on the power play, so it'll be important for the Predators to stay out of the box. They also ice two top-flight scoring lines, so a line besides David Legwand's will have to step up defensively. For some Ducks perspective, check out Battle of California and Anaheim Calling.
For Nashville, this was an easy choice. Patric Hornqvist is on fire with 15 points in ten games, and has taken over the team lead in goals:
|2009 - Patric Hornqvist||43||16||10||26||10||20||5||0||4||0||132||12.1|
For Anaheim, United States Olympian Bobby Ryan recently hit the 20 goal plateau:
|2009 - Bobby Ryan||44||20||15||35||2||24||7||0||2||0||138||14.5|
J.P. Dumont broke a slump with a shorthanded goal Thursday, so the new entry into this slot is Ryan Jones, who has tailed off since his 4 game goal streak in December:
|2009 - Ryan Jones||25||4||1||5||2||10||1||0||0||0||28||14.3|
For the Ducks, I haven't tracked them well enough to truly diagnose this, but defenseman Scott Niedermayer is a disconcerting -12:
|2009 - Scott Niedermayer||44||4||22||26||-12||22||3||0||1||0||96||4.2|
The Guys in Goal
In a change of strategy, Barry Trotz has elected to give Finnish goalie Pekka Rinne two straight starts. He had a bit of an inconsistent performance against the Hurricanes, but did well enough to win.
For Anaheim, word is that Jonas Hiller gets another start.
|2009 - Jonas Hiller||29||1645||14||12||77||2.81||909||832||.915||1|
For the Preds, they should look like this:
For the Ducks, the OC Register reports these (no idea where Selanne slots):
Beleskey - Getzlaf - Perry
Ryan - Koivu - Sexton
Marchant- Chipchura- Bodie
Artyukhin- Nokelainen- Brown
Niedermayer - Wisniewski
Whitney - Eminger
Festerling - Brookbank
Games between Anaheim and Nashville are usually a little wild, and with the return of Getzlaf and Selanne, I don't see this one being any different. While the Predators have improved their special teams, Anaheim's returning players could give them an extra edge. I foresee the Ducks taking down the Predators in a 5-4 barnburner, with the game extending into a shootout.
For discounted tickets to tonight against the Anaheim Ducks, or any Nashville Predators home game, you can follow this link and use the special offer code "PREDS".