We've got an afternoon start today (2:00 p.m. Central) at the Bridgestone Arena as the Nashville Predators welcome the Northwest Division leading Vancouver Canucks into town.
Check Nucks Misconduct for the Vancouver perspective on today's game, and follow after the jump for the breakdown...
Meet the Good Guys
The big news with Nashville is that Shea Weber will miss this one after aggravating a wrist injury Friday in Detroit. Cody Franson was called up from Milwaukee to step in, so it will be interesting to see how the defense pairings shape up. We'll also get our first look at Dustin Boyd, who is being described by the coaching staff as basically "Vern Fiddler 2.0". There's no word yet as to who gets scratched in favor of Boyd, but I'll guess Cal O'Reilly sits.
Here then, are (purely speculative) lines:
Meet the Bad Guys
The Canucks have the slimmest of leads over Colorado for the division lead, and have been fairly uneven of late. They'll win a couple games, then get blown out (the latest being a 6-3 loss at Chicago on Friday). Overall, however, this is a very talented team with a goal differential (+43) that ranks them closer to Chicago and San Jose than the rest of the playoff contenders in the West.
They're like the sports car with the big engine, but it can't get out of second gear because it keeps backfiring.
Even Strength Play
|GP||GF||GA||GF/60||SF/60||SPCT||GA/60||SA/60||SPCT||+/- per 60|
The Canucks are 3rd-best in the league in 5-on-5 play, which is the foundation of their overall strength as a team. The Preds are no slouches, but they'll need a determined effort by all four lines to maintain the pace here.
|PP %||21.4 (5th)||75.9 (28th)||PK %|
|# of PP's||262 (3rd)||216 (27th)||# of PK's|
|PK %||81..1 (19th)||16.8 (23rd)||PP %|
|# of PK's||254 (14th)||238 (22nd)||# of PP's|
Oh boy, this doesn't look good. Vancouver has one of the best power plays in the NHL and they draw lots of penalties. The Preds have a good reputation for staying out the box, and they especially need to today.
Vancouver's got a pretty good one:
|2009 - Roberto Luongo||54||3070||32||18||125||2.44||1494||1369||.916||4|
For the Preds, you can expect Pekka Rinne back in the net, trying to keep up his personal two-game winning streak:
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||42||2325||22||12||108||2.79||1096||988||.901||3|
The Preds head out for four games on the road next week, so grabbing some points today is essential to keeping a step ahead of Detroit and Calgary. This is the fourth of a six-game post-Olympic road trip for the Canucks, so Nashville needs to get the jump on them early and wear them down.
It'll be a tough task.