This week represents a major test for the Nashville Predators, as they've dropped just outside the playoff spots in the Western Conference, but face three teams who are also in the bottom half of the standings as of this morning. With two of three games taking place at Bridgestone Arena, can the Preds defend their
turf ice and get back into the mix?
Let's take a quick look at these upcoming matchups...
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Phoenix Coyotes - Tuesday
The Coyotes make their swing through Nashville as part of a 3-game road trip which begins tonight in Chicago, so once again the Preds are going to catch a tired opponent. The last two teams to come into town, Buffalo and Edmonton, had also played the night before and yet beat the Predators, so Nashville can't take for granted that they'll face anything less than a tough battle.
The Preds are 1-1 against Phoenix so far this season, with each team winning on the other's ice.
Phoenix is paced by Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney up front, but the big story there is how despite letting Ilya Bryzgalov walk away to Philadelphia to sign a huge free agent contract, they're getting a stellar performance from Mike Smith, the castoff from Tampa Bay.
|2011 - Mike Smith||21||1234||12||6||3||46||2.24||674||628||.932||2|
Columbus Blue Jackets - Thursday
Losers of 3 out of their last 4, the Blue Jackets host the Preds Thursday night, and Nashville will look to re-establish their dominance over the Central Division's basement dwellers. Back on November 19, Columbus earned their first road win against the Preds in ages.
In Columbus, things perked up a bit over the last two weeks, but the return of Steve Mason from injury presents the team with a troubling quandry - do they dare put their supposed #1 goalie back in the game, at the expense of journeyman Curtis Sanford, who has stood on his head so far for them?
|2011 - Curtis Sanford||10||572||4||3||2||20||2.10||271||251||.926||0|
Anaheim Ducks - Saturday
Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena we'll get our first look at Bruce Boudreau as head coach of the Ducks, and while the first two games have gone Anaheim's way, I look at this as a potentially great fit, as Boudreau's background and early success in Washington appear to mesh well with the current makeup of the Ducks, who are a far different team than the one which won the Stanley Cup back in 2007.
As a result of the coaching change there, the Bobby Ryan trade speculation has subsided, but we'll have to see how well he flourishes under the new regime.
|2011 - Bobby Ryan||26||7||5||12||-8||14||0||0||0||70||10.0|