The Nashville Predators battle the New York Islanders this evening, in a game pitting two of the league's surprises this year. The Predators, 31-22-4 with 66 points are hanging on to the 8th and final playoff spot in the West, while the Islanders sit a mere five points out of eighth in the East with a 23-27-8 mark and 54 points. Swing by Lighthouse Hockey to catch up on some Islanders news.
Tonight marks the beginning of a four game Eastern Conference road swing before the beginning of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The Predators will hope to have Marcel Goc back in the lineup, and look to take advantage of playing an average opponent before taking on the likes of New Jersey and Pittsburgh.
Be sure and check out my interview with Islanders blogger Dominik, and follow after the jump for breakdown...
Nashville coming in
The Preds are fresh off a disheartening loss to the San Jose Sharks, which saw them blow three leads. J.P. Dumont responded well to his coach's criticism, pitching in 2 goals. Cal O'Reilly sprung to life, as well, with assists on all three Nashville goals. I have to admit that I didn't think a line containing arguably the two best passers on the team would work very well, but O'Reilly and Dumont teamed up for some productive offensive play. The power play struck again after its outburst against Colorado, but the penalty kill continues to disappoint, giving up two goals to Dany Heatley. Pekka Rinne continued to play well, and only one goal could really be attributed to him. It will be interesting to see if Barry Trotz goes with Pekka for the remaining games up until the break.
New York coming in
The Islanders are led by a group of young players, which seems like its becoming more the norm around the NHL. John Tavares, Matt Moulson, and Kyle Okposo provide the spark for an Islanders team that is short on big names but long on talent and effort. They have a bit of a revolving door in net, with 3 starting-level goaltenders on the roster. Its hard to tell on any given night which of Rick DiPietro, Dwayne Roloson, or Martin Biron will get the call. Their power play, shockingly, is worse than the Predators', so it could be a good night to get that Nashville penalty kill out of its' funk. Speaking of penalty kills, the Islanders', again, is worse than Nashville. You may consider changing the channel to Food Network or some other such boredom when either team goes on a man advantage...
For Nashville, as mentioned, J.P. Dumont had a great game against San Jose and contributed well on the power play against the Avs:
|2009 - J.P. Dumont||49||11||25||36||10||18||2||1||3||0||77||14.3|
Martin Erat seems to have tailed off quite a bit since returning from a knee strain suffered against St. Louis in December, and the Preds really need him to pick it back up for the stretch drive:
|2009 - Martin Erat||50||18||16||34||-2||32||4||0||2||0||103||17.5|
Here's Dominik on these categories for the Isles:
The Guys in Goal
I'm going to assume that based on recent patterns Pekka Rinne will go tonight, but check back here throughout the day for confirmation.
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||38||2081||20||11||96||2.77||990||894||.903||3|
For the Isles, Martin Biron gets the start after being recalled from Bridgeport of the AHL.
|2009 - Martin Biron||17||950||2||11||51||3.22||508||457||.900||1|
For Nashville, considering Cody Franson is still out and Marcel Goc returns, I anticipate this:
Not entirely sure, but using a few websites and educated guesses, New York could look like this:
For the Predators this season, it really has been road sweet road. The Islanders, while dangerous, are not the Sharks, Avs, or Coyotes, three teams that the Preds either beat or played well in the past week. I think Barry Trotz will have the boys ready to rumble as they kick off this road trip, assuming that the Olympics aren't in the back or front of any players' minds. Hopefully the power play can keep producing, but either way, I've got Pekka Rinne out 'tending whoever in a 4-1 Predator victory.