Tonight, the Nashville Predators embark on a stretch of games against Eastern Conference opponents, beginning against the woeful Toronto Maple Leafs. Nashville's only four points ahead of Toronto, but the Predators have, at least temporarily, reversed their losing ways with two consecutive shootout victories over Central Division opponents. The Leafs, on the other hand, have lost eight straight games.
After the jump, more on a game between two teams heading in opposite directions.
A little shaky during the losing streak, Pekka Rinne has turned things around, albeit unspectacularly.
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||10||568||4||4||27||2.85||300||273||.910||1|
Nashville, outside of Matthew Lombardi, is finally able to field a full-strength roster. It'll be interesting to see how they play together for an extended string of games.
Dumont - Legwand - Ward
The Maple Leafs will go with the veteran and former Anaheim Duck.
#35 / Goalie / Toronto Maple Leafs
May 16, 1977
|2010 - Jean-Sebastien Giguere||11||664||4||5||29||2.62||287||258||.899||0|
Perhaps contributing to their dry spell, the Leafs are missing captain Dion Phaneuf and free agent acquisition Colby Armstrong, both to injury.
Kadri - Bozak - Kulemin
- With the return of Ryan Suter and Martin Erat, the power play against Chicago took on a decidedly better feel (both players were on the ice for the goal). Shea Weber's shot from the point may get all the publicity, but Suter's ability to change the angle at any moment and move the puck into the zone smoothly is equally important. Lets hope they kick it up another notch tonight against a weak Toronto special teams.
- Marcel Goc is playing like a man on a mission. He swept a puck off the blueline and won the game in the shootout against St. Louis, and provided a brilliant assist on Nashville's first goal against Chicago. Those were just two isolated incidents - Goc is buzzing around the ice, and the Predators have improved as a team with his efforts. When Goc plays like this, the Predators have three number 2 centers (4 when Lombardi is healthy) - a luxury any team would love to boast.
- Despite having, by all accounts, poor linemates, Phil Kessel is still one of the NHL's more dangerous goal scorers. It'll probably fall to Kevin Klein and Francis Bouillon to keep him out of the prime shooting areas, which will bear watching when you consider Klein's lackluster play of late.
- One of the Maple Leafs' strengths is their top four defense. After that, things get questionable with rookie Keith Aulie and former Red Wing Brett Lebda. Whichever of Nashville's bottom lines draws this matchup needs to make the most of their opportunity.
- Toronto's epic losing streak has not been without positives. See if this sounds familiar: "Even though the Leafs did a lot of really good things in tonight's game, they still came out at the wrong end of the scoreboard...At the end of the night, the Leafs lost to a more talented team. They worked hard, once again didn't get the bounces and lost. But if they keep up this effort level for the next game this losing streak will come to an end." Sounds to me like a team Nashville should be wary of taking too lightly.
- Colin Wilson's ice time this season has been all over the page, leaving fans somewhat befuddled as to what Barry Trotz is thinking. More perplexing than his playing time, perhaps, is that he's being weighed down with defensive-oriented linemates like Nick Spaling and Jerred Smithson. My guess? Willy is trying too hard to make an impact offensively, and Coach Trotz needs him to get back to the basics before entrusting him with a larger role.
- Though the Leafs are angry, and coach Ron Wilson probably has them well-prepared, tonight represents a prime opportunity for the Predators to beat up on lesser opposition. These are the games they're supposed to win - now they must win them.