The Nashville Predators visit Madison Square Garden tonight for a matchup with another middle of the road Eastern Conference team, the New York Rangers. The Rangers are 26-26-7, and sit two points out of eighth with 59. The Predators are on the back end of a back-to-back with the two New York teams, but won't have had the detrimental aspect of long travel having come only from Long Island.
ROSTER UPDATE: Per beat writer John Glennon, Ellis in net is confirmed, Dan Hamhuis will play, but Marcel Goc will miss a 3rd consecutive game. Look for Colin Wilson to have a greater role than his 4:51 TOI last night.
h/t to Aditya T in the comments...
Continue below for analysis and prediction...
Nashville coming in
Ugh. Do I have to fill this in? The Preds are fresh off a stinging, unnecessary loss to the Islanders in which they coughed up a lead with 11 seconds to go in the game. Fail. Everybody needs to step up, and now, or we'll be on the wrong side of the standings during the break. They're close to that line now, with a 31-22-5 record and 67 points-only two ahead of the Red Wings.
New York coming in
The Rangers are lead by the high-scoring Marian Gaborik, and the perpetually underrated Swedish national team goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. They are coming off an inspirational victory over the New Jersey Devils, which saw Lundqvist repeatedly stone attackers with the glove. Gaborik and Lundqvist provide the highlights, but its mainstays Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan who provide the leadership and grit. New York is an underachieving group in my opinion, but with the talent they hold it would not surprise me to see them make a run late in the year. The Rangers have a slightly above average power play, at 18.6%, while their penalty kill is near the top of the pile at what to Predator fans is likely a staggering number - 85.2%. I can only imagine what Nashville's record would be with that sort of kill. Give Blueshirt Banter a look-see for all the Rangers news you could ever want.
At this point, I can't bring myself to label any Predator "hot", but as Tim pointed out in the comments, Nashville would be even worse off without Joel Ward:
|2009 - Joel Ward||51||12||16||28||-4||14||3||1||1||0||92||13.0|
For the Rangers, Henrik Lundqvist has been spectacular of late:
|2009 - Henrik Lundqvist||51||2932||23||21||119||2.44||1466||1347||.919||2|
For Nashville, everyone's been poor, but David Legwand has had almost no offensive spark at all lately.
|2009 - David Legwand||57||10||20||30||-4||18||0||1||3||0||115||8.7|
Wade Redden, perpetual disappointment.
|2009 - Wade Redden||52||1||8||9||0||19||0||0||0||0||50||2.0|
The Guys in Goal
I assume that Dan Ellis gets the call tonight, since Pekka Rinne went last night.
#39 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Jun 19, 1980
|2009 - Dan Ellis||25||1356||11||11||60||2.65||663||603||.910||1|
For New York, it'll be the aforementioned Lundqvist. You can see his stat card above.
#30 / Goalie / New York Rangers
Mar 02, 1982
I give up. No way in the world to predict these guys. They used to bounce back after horrific losses, now, not so much. Rangers 5, Preds 2. The sky may not yet be falling, but if we don't see a roster move or major gut-checking from the most important players, then the Smashville Express will be all but derailed.