Nashville launches the post-All Star Game portion of their schedule tonight in Beantown, taking on a Bruins team (25-19-5) that is one of the pleasant surprises of this season. Boston was mostly expected to languish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, especially after losing Patrice Bergeron for the season due to injury. In goal, however, Tim Thomas is having a career year, leading the NHL with a .928 save percentage and earning the victory in Sunday's All-Star Game (granted, he gave up 4 goals on 18 shots, but who's counting). Team captain Zdeno Chara, who I believe is now 15 feet tall and still growing, is on pace for perhaps his finest offensive season. Can the speedy Preds escape the intense gravity well that Chara's massive frame emits, bending time and space to take away opportunities in the Boston defensive zone?
I'm guessing Scott Nichol could skate right under him...
Radek Bonk returns to the lineup tonight (with Josh Langfeld heading back to Milwaukee), giving Barry Trotz 12 forwards and 6 defense for the first time in a couple weeks. David Legwand (high ankle sprain) didn't make the trip, but it sounds like he'll be back in action soon. Dressing a conventional lineup gives Trotz another tough decision; which two defensemen to sit? With eight on the active roster, I'd bet that Greg Zanon and Kevin Klein will watch from the press box, but not due to any huge fault in their play of late. There have been a couple articles recently in the Tennessean about GM David Poile pursuing trade possibilities, but without any specific details or names mentioned, there's little reason to believe anything will happen immediately. The trade deadline is still four weeks away, although personally, I'd rather see them make a move sooner rather than later. One surprising note was made yesterday by a commenter on the Tennessean's website; while the common wisdom (and indeed Poile's own assessment) suggests that the Predators need scoring help, they actually stand 2nd in the Western Conference and 8th overall in Goals Per Game.
Since they're on the East Coast, the puck drops at 6:00 p.m. Nashville time, and tonight's broadcast on Fox Sports South will feature "Hockey 101", wherein Pete Weber and Terry Crisp will offer an education in hockey basics rather than providing traditional play-by-play (if you want that, turn up the radio where Eli Gold will fill in tonight with PBP duties). You can even submit your own questions online during the game, and have Pete & Terry respond. By all means tell your friends and coworkers, and help get them on the bandwagon as the Preds kick off the playoff stretch drive.
As for me, I've been indoctrinating the Little Forecheckers this year (they've each been to a couple games now), and tonight's game will be an opportunity to let someone else teach them about the game, while I can sit back and relax (yeah, right!).