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Predators Game Day Preview: Nashville vs. Philadelphia

03-07_medium Flyers blog: Broad Street Hockey

The Nashville Predators take their 6-game winning streak into the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia today, for their first game in over two years with the Flyers (on November 29, 2006, the Preds won in Philly 3-2). This begins a three-game stretch against Eastern Conference teams

Questions to be answered: (1) Will Shea Weber drop the gloves and destroy another combatant in a 4th-straight game? (2) If Dan Ellis gets the start, can he bring a sharp, focused effort despite not playing since giving up 6 goals to Detroit on February 18? (3) Will Barry Trotz dress Wade Belak to go with a "when in Rome..." strategy, or will he try to out-skill the Philly Goon Squad by lining up Ville Koistinen on the wing again?

Flyers coming in: The Flyers got a proverbial kick in the jewels when Danny Briere aggravated the groin injury which has kept him out for most of the season. He won't play tonight, but might return in their next game on Tuesday. With a 10-7-1 record since the All-Star Break, Philadelphia sits 4th in the Eastern Conference, 9 points behind the New Jersey Devils, with a game in hand.

Predators coming in: An overtime road victory in St. Louis, followed by a perfect five-game homestand, has lifted Nashville to 6th-place in the Western Conference.

Flyers to watch: Philly is loaded with quality goal-scorers; they boast 5 (Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Mike Knuble, and ex-Pred Scott Hartnell) with at least 22 goals already.

Preds to watch: The top line of Steve Sullivan, Jason Arnott, and J.P. Dumont is playing like an elite #1 unit right now, having combined for 11 goals and 17 assists over the last five games. Martin Erat returned to action in Thursday's win and scored.

Here's a look at the two teams in the main statistical categories, along with overall NHL rank:

Nashville Philadelphia
 Record 33-28-4 16th 34-19-10 8th
 Pts % .538 16th .619 8th
 Goals For/Game 2.54 24th 3.18 7th
 Goals Against/Game 2.71 8th 2.86 15th
 5-on-5 GF/GA 0.96 16th 1.00 13th
 PP% 14.3 29th 21.5 7th
 PK% 84.4 4th 82.5 9th
 Shots/Game 29.2 17th 29.1 18th
 Shots Against/Game 29.2 10th 32.1 25th
 FO % 53.2 3rd 47.8 25th

In short, look for Nashville to dominate in the faceoff circle, which might help them dictate the pace; the real battle might come down to the ability of Nashville's penalty killers to ward off a potent Philadelphia power play.