Nashville Predators @ Pittsburgh Penguins preview: Get Ready For Prime-Time

In this corner, wearing the black & gold trunks, one of the heavyweight contenders of the Eastern Conference, the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburrrrrrrrgh Penguins!

And in the other corner, in the white & gold, one of the rising forces out of the wild, wild West... the Nashvillllllllle Predators!

I can't help but think of tonight's matchup between the Predators and Penguins (6:00 p.m. Central on FS-TN, and NHL Network nationally) as a genuine heavyweight battle, a tune-up for the playoffs featuring two teams with extremely high expectations. The hottest team in the league, which looks even stronger now that Sidney Crosby is back on the ice, hosts a Nashville squad which has loaded up as never before to make a run at the Stanley Cup.

Follow after the jump to get set for all the action...

Tale Of The Tape

Nashville (42-23-8) at Pittsburgh (45-21-6)
NSH Offense vs. PIT Defense PIT Offense vs. NSH Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH Offense 2.4 (10th) 27.0 (26th) 8.9 (6th) 2.3 (7th) 30.7 (27th) 924 (6th) NSH Defense
PIT Defense 2.5 (21st) 26.9 (5th) 909 (25th) 2.8 (3rd) 33.0 (1st) 8.6 (9th) PIT Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
NSH PP vs. PIT PK PIT PP vs. NSH PK
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
NSH 5-on-4 7.6 (1st) 46.7 (20th) 16.4 (1st) 6.5 (20th) 53.4 (24th) 878 (16th) NSH 4-on-5
PIT 4-on-5 3.6 (2nd) 41.0 (3rd) 912 (3rd) 6.7 (6th) 56.1 (3rd) 11.9 (16th) PIT 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

Make no mistake about it, the Penguins are good. Scary good. They can beat you in 5-on-5, or either side of the special teams battle, and remember, those season-long totals reflect only a minimal impact from the best player in the game.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have had every excuse to collapse this season, given the long periods of time they've had to carry on without Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang, their best players at both forward and defense. Into that gap, Evgeni Malkin has stepped up and performed to a level which has many talking about him as a Hart Trophy favorite. Here, our colleagues at Pensburgh celebrate Malkin's run to the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer:

The past 23 times the NHL has awarded the Art Ross trophy to the league's leading scorer, the recipient has been a Pittsburgh Penguin 13 times. Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have all added their chapters to a legacy of dominance.

Malkin is putting the finishing touches on Chapter 14 as we speak. In order not to take it forgranted and to give Geno his due, let's dig into the numbers he has put up this season and take a minute to look back and appreciate the special kind of flair and excellence that has been on display.


Evgeni Malkin

#71 / Center / Pittsburgh Penguins

6-3

195

Jul 31, 1986



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Evgeni Malkin 65 43 50 93 +18 62 11 0 9 300 14.3

Of course, we can't overlook our old pal Sully, either. Steve Sullivan, one of the most popular Predators ever, signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent last summer and it appears like he made a good choice:


Steve Sullivan

#26 / Left Wing / Pittsburgh Penguins

5-8

161

Jul 06, 1974



GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG
SOG PCT
2011 - Steve Sullivan 72 14 26 40 0 16 5 0 0 122 11.5

Coming into tonight's contest, the Penguins have won 12 out of their last 13 games, with the only loss coming last Sunday in overtime against Philadelphia. That run has brought them to within 3 points of the New York Rangers for the Atlantic Division (and Eastern Conference) lead, with Pittsburgh holding a game in hand.


Pittsburgh Penguins Last 5 Games

Winnipeg Tue 03/20 W 8 - 4
@ Philadelphia Sun 03/18 SO - L 2 - 3
@ New Jersey Sat 03/17 W 5 - 2
@ New York Rangers Thu 03/15 W 5 - 2
Boston Sun 03/11 W 5 - 2

Nashville Predators

Ho hum, nothing going on with these guys, right? Just another night playing out the string while we wait for the playoffs to start in a few more weeks...

But wait! We may well get to see Alex Radulov play his first game in a Preds uni since the spring of 2008. As long as he can deal with what must be a mind-bending dose of jet lag, it sounds like we'll see him take the ice alongside David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist.


Alexander Radulov

#47 / Right Wing / Nashville Predators

6-1

200

Jul 05, 1986


In other lineup-related updates, it sounds like neither Roman Josi or Colin Wilson are making the trip for this one, although Paul Gaustad may be ready to play again. Goose's return along with Radulov's addition pushes two forwards out of the way, and based on yesterday's practice lines, it appears that Matt Halischuk and Craig Smith could be the odd guys out.

Another odd guy out could be Andrei Kostitsyn, who apparently gets bumped down to the 3rd line for now. Perhaps Barry Trotz's biggest challenge right now is coming up with an effective trio there that he's comfortable working into the mix.

And if all that doesn't get you ready for the game, check out E.J. Hradek and Dan Rosen touting this as a potential Stanley Cup Final preview:


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