Predators Game Day Preview: Predators @ Devils

The New Jersey Devils host the Nashville Predators tonight at the Prudential Center in snowy Newark, New Jersey. The Devils are 36-20-3, with 75 points, and sit in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, while the Predators are 32-22-5, with 69 points, and are in 7th place in the West. 

The Predators beat the Devils in their only other meeting this year, a 3-2 shootout victory at the Sommet Center. 

UPDATE 2: Shameless plug-- check out yours truly over at In Lou We Trust talking Preds hockey.

UPDATE: John Glennon is reporting that both Jerred Smithson and Marcel Goc are doubtful tonight, which mean's we'll likely see both Wade Belak and Ryan Jones or a call-up from Milwaukee.

Check out my interview with John Fischer of the superb Devils blog In Lou We Trust, and follow after the jump for more!

Nashville coming in

The Predators are fresh off an air-clearing win against the New York Rangers, which saw super-prospect Colin Wilson score the game winner on, yes, the power play. There were still some negatives, to be sure, but Dan Ellis was simply spectacular and arguably stole the two points right out from under the Rangers. Hopefully the win will propel Nashville into the Olympic break with some success. As of yet, we've had no injury reports on either Marcel Goc or Jerred Smithson, but stay tuned throughout the day for updates.

New Jersey coming in

The Devils are coming off a demoralizing defeat to rivals Philadelphia, in which they blew a two goal lead and lost on Simon Gagne's winner in the extra period. Since the Kovalchuk mega-trade, they've been only average and not really performed up to the heightened expectations thus far. Their power play is only average, at 14th, while their penalty kill is below average at 17th. The Predators did well against the Rangers' well above average special teams, so they'll need to take advantage of New Jersey's early. The Devils boast quite a few offensive weapons in Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, Dainus Zubrus, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Patrik Elias, so a huge key will be for someone other than Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to step up defensively (that means you, Hamhuis and Klein). Parise missed the game against Philly, but looks ready to go tonight. 

Who's hot

For Nashville, Jordin Tootoo has played exceptionally well lately and was rewarded with a goal on Wednesday, and his discipline this year has been refreshing:

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Jordin Tootoo 29 3 8 11 3 20 0 0 1 0 61 4.9

For the Devils, center Travis Zajac has had a great year and scored against the Flyers:


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Travis Zajac 59 18 30 48 21 20 6 0 2 0 148 12.2

Who's not

For Nashville, David Legwand recorded an assist against the Rangers, so Martin Erat slides into this spot:

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Martin Erat 52 18 17 35 -3 36 4 0 2 0 106 17.0

For New Jersey, a certain superstar has but two points in a Devils uniform. THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!!


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2009 - Ilya Kovalchuk 53 31 29 60 -1 51 10 0 3 0 202 15.3

The Guys in Goal

No telling who goes just yet for the Predators, but both goalies have done well lately despite repeated defensive breakdowns:

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Dan Ellis 26 1416 12 11 61 2.58 701 640 .913 1

GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Pekka Rinne 39 2146 20 11 99 2.77 1022 923 .903 3

Some players need no introduction:


Martin Brodeur

#30 / Goalie / New Jersey Devils

6-2

215

May 06, 1972


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2009 - Martin Brodeur 56 3264 33 19 124 2.28 1481 1357 .916 7

Projected Lineups

For Nashville, its getting harder to predict considering injuries and Trotz inexplicably swapping out Ryan Jones for Wade Belak, but here's a guess:

Forwards
Sullivan - Arnott - Hornqvist
Ward - Legwand - Erat
Jones - O'Reilly - Dumont
Smithson - Wilson - Tootoo
Belak
Defense
Suter - Weber
Hamhuis - Klein
Bouillon - Sulzer
Yonkman

 

New Jersey's lineup has been shuffled with Kovalchuk's arrival, but here's a general idea:

Forwards
Parise - Zajac - Langenbrunner
Kovalchuk - Zubrus - Elias
Pandolfo - Niedermayer - Rolston
Leblond - McAmmond - Zharkov
Defense
Greene - Salvador
White - Mottau
Davison - Fraser

Fearless Prediction

The Predators really improved on the penalty kill and on defense as a whole against the Rangers, but the Devils are members of the NHL's elite. IF Nashville were to stay disciplined, meaning no boneheaded turnovers or penalties, and IF Jason Arnott, Steve Sullivan, and Martin Erat played up to their potential, then this would be a heck of a contest. This rarely happens, however, and a half-effort Predator squad will lose to the sort of team the Devils are 9 times out of 10. New Jersey 3, Nashville 2.

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