After a three game winning streak, the Nashville Predators have lost two games in a row and stumble into Atlanta, Georgia to take on the Atlanta Thrashers in a game that has significantly more importance than any fan, player, or coach would probably like. The Predators could soon be on the outside looking in, and have lost superstar defenseman Shea Weber to injury, as well as new acquisition Denis Grebeshkov.
Dan Ellis gets the start tonight, and Alexander Sulzer has been recalled for Grebeshkov. Continue below for more...
Nashville coming in
There are certainly some pluses we can take from the last two losses. The power play has been more effective than usual, and both Jason Arnott and Dan Hamhuis, typically the target of fans' ire, have picked up their play quite a bit since the Olympic break.
As is usually the case with a losing streak, the negatives outweigh the positives. Pekka Rinne has been subpar in his recent starts, which is the last thing the Predators need in a stretch run. Despite having perhaps the top defensive unit in all of hockey on paper, the repeated mental lapses continue to astound, such as Kevin Klein's gift to Pavel Datsyuk on Friday. The losses of Weber and Grebeshkov obviously hurt, but will give players like Alexander Sulzer and Cody Franson chances to shine against an average opponent in Atlanta.
Atlanta coming in
The Thrashers are also on a two game losing streak, and falling faster than Nashville out of the playoff picture. Our esteemed SBN affiliate, Bird Watchers Anonymous, has been justifiably displeased with the play out of Atlanta since the Olympic break.
The players they acquired in the Ilya Kovalchuk deal have been performing well above expectations, especially rookie Nicklas Bergfors, who has already cemented a place on the top line. Look for Joel Ward, Jerred Smithson, and David Legwand to get plenty of time against him.
I can't overstate how impressed I've been with the play of Dan Hamhuis since the Olympic break. Jason Arnott is also riding a point streak.
|2009 - Dan Hamhuis||61||4||16||20||-1||45||0||0||0||0||90||4.4|
As mentioned, Bergfors has been on quite a tear.
|2009 - Nicklas Bergfors||63||19||15||34||-3||10||9||0||6||0||166||11.4|
When you're unable to score a goal in over twenty games, you earn a spot here!
|2009 - David Legwand||65||10||23||33||0||22||0||1||3||0||118||8.5|
For the Thrash, I direct you to the goalie position.
The Guys in Goal
Word comes through beat writer John Glennon that Barry Trotz has relented and given Dan Ellis the call for tonight's contest.
|2009 - Dan Ellis||28||1539||13||12||68||2.65||765||697||.911||1|
For Atlanta, Johan Hedberg had a particularly rough night against Carolina, so it'll be interesting to see who coach John Anderson goes with tonight.
|2009 - Johan Hedberg||35||1916||16||10||85||2.66||987||902||.914||1|
|2009 - Ondrej Pavelec||36||1953||12||16||113||3.47||1144||1031||.901||2|
Nashville Predators Injuries
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
lower body, 1-2 weeks
Atlanta Thrashers Injuries
Nashville, with some major changes, again, per Glennon:
Atlanta's, via the front page of BWA:
Did you know?
- Dan Hamhuis ranks sixth in the NHL among defensemen for takeaways.
- With a win tonight, Barry Trotz will hit the big 400. Is he underrated, or is he underrated?
- Dan Ellis' first start as a Predator was a 3-0 shutout of the Thrashers.
- Jordin Tootoo has six points in six career games against Atlanta.
I'm wary of being overly optimistic tonight, but I feel like with the Thrashers slumping, Dan Ellis in net, and the Predators wanting to get their road trip off to a good start that we could have a recipe for success. Nashville did a fantastic job of staying out of the box on Sunday, committing only one minor penalty. That will need to continue, as the Thrashers have an underrated power play.
Philips Arena is not a real intimidating venue, so it shouldn't be difficult for the Predators to get their legs under them quickly. If they shore up the defensive mistakes (which should be interesting with two rookies in the lineup), Nashville wins, 4-1.