Nashville Predators @ Anaheim Ducks Game 1 Preview: Hope

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 24: Jerred Smithson #25 and Nick Spaling #13 of the Nashville Predators celebrate after scoring a goal against Jonas Hiller #1 of the Anaheim Ducks on March 24, 2011 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

[NHL.com] - [SB Nation] - [Anaheim Calling

9:30 PM CST | SportSouth (HD) | 102.9 FM 

"We've got a lot of unfinished business we know we want to finish. We've got a lot of gas left in the tank and we want to get things done our way." - Steve Sullivan

This scenario is not unfamiliar. The Nashville Predators have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons, and they continue to bring with them the burden of never having advanced past the quarterfinal round. Yes, they've been competitive, but the means to the end matters little. The truth is that the Preds are 0-5 in playoff series, and organization-wide frustration is high. If you're pessimistic, you have a right to be.

Tonight, though, begins a new season. There's an untarnished sheet of ice waiting at the Honda Center for two teams that, for all intents and purposes, are 0-0. It is perhaps the classic case of "unstoppable force vs. immovable object" - the Predators' rock-solid defense against the Ducks' high-flying attack. We don't know who will prove the better team; predictions are essentially useless, but then, that's the beauty of it - the Predators don't have to bring their history with them; they're operating with a blank slate.

This isn't Jason Arnott supposedly taking a shift off or Dan Hamhuis turning the puck over at the blueline. Instead, it's Mike Fisher laying out to block a slapshot, and upon being hit, getting up and doing it all over again. It's Nick Spaling, lying on his stomach while killing a penalty, clearing the puck out of the zone with his glove, or Pekka Rinne deciding that he's not going to lose this game. 

No, they're not perfect, far from it. But this is a Predators team with a seemingly different personality, one that when kicked in the teeth, refuses to surrender. Could they choke? Yes. Yes, they could. But it hasn't happened yet, and so, I believe. You might not shout your belief from the rooftops, but you're going to tune in at 9:30, because maybe, just maybe, this is the year.

Lineups after the jump. 

Tonight's projected lineups: 

Nashville


Pekka Rinne

#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators

6-5

207

Nov 03, 1982


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Pekka Rinne 64 3789 33 22 134 2.12 1905 1771 .930 6

Forwards
Kostitsyn - Fisher - Hornqvist
Ward - Legwand - Erat 
Tootoo - Smithson - Spaling
Sullivan (A) - Geoffrion - Wilson
Available: 
Halischuk/Dumont/O'Reilly
Defense
Weber (C) - Suter (A)
Blum - Klein
Franson - O'Brien

Anaheim


Dan Ellis

#38 / Goalie / Anaheim Ducks

6-1

191

Jun 19, 1980


GP MIN W L EGA GA GAA SA SV SV% SO
2010 - Dan Ellis 44 2408 21 10 111 2.77 1089 978 .898 2
Forwards
Ryan - Getzlaf (C) - Perry
Selanne (A) - Koivu (A) - Blake
Beleskey - McMillan - Winchester
Ruutu - Chipchura - Parros
Defense
Visnovsky - Lydman
Fowler - Brookbank
Sbisa - Beauchemin


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