The Nashville Predators are playing their best hockey of the year. They are getting good goaltending from an unlikely source but, more importantly, the team is clicking. They are giving their young net minder goal support, so he doesn't have to over think his role and try to be perfect every night. Some nights he's just perfect on his own.
Now the New York Rangers take to the ice at Bridgestone Arena with a hot young goaltender of their own. However, the Rangers have had tons of trouble scoring goals this year, sitting at 28th in the league. If the Predators do whatever they have done the past week, there should be a good sense of confidence among the fan base tonight. That's something that hasn't been around these parts too often.
|New York Rangers||Nashville Predators|
|5-on-5 Close SF/60||35.5||1st||29.1||16th|
|5-on-5 Close SA/60||30.6||20th||29.7||14th|
|5-on-5 Close Save %||.920||15th||.919||18th|
|# of PP's/Gm||3.32||21st||3.36||19th|
|# of PK's/Gm||3.45||15th||3.41||13th|
The New York Rangers
New York struggled mightily to begin the year, but have since made up ground and are right in the middle of the Metropolitan race. Their most recent win came on Thursday against the Dallas Stars, after starting the third period out with two goals less than 40 seconds apart.
Longtime division foe, Rick Nash, makes his first appearance to Nashville since being traded away from Columbus. Nash is just getting back after missing most of the season with a concussion. All time, he has 36 points in 51 games against the Predators.
Common sense would have you guessing that the studly (and I mean that for both goaltending and physique) Henrik Lundqvist would be between the pipes tonight. That's most likely not going to be the case, however, as rookie Cam Talbot is projected to start tonight. Besides having the best goalie mask of all time, Talbot is 4-1 in five starts since assuming the backup role when Marty Biron retired. Not only are his .943 SV% and 1.56 GAA ridiculous, but his last start saw him shut out the Canadiens. It was the first time since 1967 that the Rangers blanked the Habs in Montreal. He ain't afraid of no goals.
The Nashville Predators
The Nashville-Americans put on quite a show in Canada on Thursday. We talked about it a lot and everyone had a good time. Now, maybe it's time for the Nashville-Canadians to return the favor, eh? Seriously, I don't care if you're from North America or the Dagobah System. If you are wearing gold and play the way these players have been playing the last three games, good things will happen. The trick is to not regress back to Mr. Hyde.
Also, I just want to devote a whole graph to Craig Smith, because he is awesome. It's great to see just how well he is playing right now, and it looks to be having an effect on whoever is on the ice with him. In 22 games, he has already scored more points than he had in 44 games last year. Keep it up, Honeybadger.
FS-TN has you covered on the boob tube at 7 p.m. CST. So grab a slice of 'za and settle in. (Make it deep dish if you really want to infuriate the opponent.) (But realize you'll be supporting Chicago if you do so, and you don't want to do that, do you?)
More from On the Forecheck:
- Join the OTF Virtual Food Drive, Benefiting Second Harvest of Middle Tennessee!
- Friday's Dump & Chase: What In The World Is Going On With This Team?
- Nashville Predators 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 2: American Heroes Crush Canada's Team
- Central Division Breakdown: Contenders & Pretenders
- A Tale of Two Teams: As the Season Gets Older, Predators Struggling to Find Their Way