The New Jersey Devils host the Nashville Predators tonight at the Prudential Center in snowy Newark, New Jersey. The Devils are 36-20-3, with 75 points, and sit in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, while the Predators are 32-22-5, with 69 points, and are in 7th place in the West.
The Predators beat the Devils in their only other meeting this year, a 3-2 shootout victory at the Sommet Center.
UPDATE 2: Shameless plug-- check out yours truly over at In Lou We Trust talking Preds hockey.
UPDATE: John Glennon is reporting that both Jerred Smithson and Marcel Goc are doubtful tonight, which mean's we'll likely see both Wade Belak and Ryan Jones or a call-up from Milwaukee.
Nashville coming in
The Predators are fresh off an air-clearing win against the New York Rangers, which saw super-prospect Colin Wilson score the game winner on, yes, the power play. There were still some negatives, to be sure, but Dan Ellis was simply spectacular and arguably stole the two points right out from under the Rangers. Hopefully the win will propel Nashville into the Olympic break with some success. As of yet, we've had no injury reports on either Marcel Goc or Jerred Smithson, but stay tuned throughout the day for updates.
New Jersey coming in
The Devils are coming off a demoralizing defeat to rivals Philadelphia, in which they blew a two goal lead and lost on Simon Gagne's winner in the extra period. Since the Kovalchuk mega-trade, they've been only average and not really performed up to the heightened expectations thus far. Their power play is only average, at 14th, while their penalty kill is below average at 17th. The Predators did well against the Rangers' well above average special teams, so they'll need to take advantage of New Jersey's early. The Devils boast quite a few offensive weapons in Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, Dainus Zubrus, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Patrik Elias, so a huge key will be for someone other than Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to step up defensively (that means you, Hamhuis and Klein). Parise missed the game against Philly, but looks ready to go tonight.
For Nashville, Jordin Tootoo has played exceptionally well lately and was rewarded with a goal on Wednesday, and his discipline this year has been refreshing:
|2009 - Jordin Tootoo||29||3||8||11||3||20||0||0||1||0||61||4.9|
For the Devils, center Travis Zajac has had a great year and scored against the Flyers:
|2009 - Travis Zajac||59||18||30||48||21||20||6||0||2||0||148||12.2|
For Nashville, David Legwand recorded an assist against the Rangers, so Martin Erat slides into this spot:
|2009 - Martin Erat||52||18||17||35||-3||36||4||0||2||0||106||17.0|
For New Jersey, a certain superstar has but two points in a Devils uniform. THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!!
|2009 - Ilya Kovalchuk||53||31||29||60||-1||51||10||0||3||0||202||15.3|
The Guys in Goal
No telling who goes just yet for the Predators, but both goalies have done well lately despite repeated defensive breakdowns:
|2009 - Dan Ellis||26||1416||12||11||61||2.58||701||640||.913||1|
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||39||2146||20||11||99||2.77||1022||923||.903||3|
Some players need no introduction:
#30 / Goalie / New Jersey Devils
May 06, 1972
|2009 - Martin Brodeur||56||3264||33||19||124||2.28||1481||1357||.916||7|
For Nashville, its getting harder to predict considering injuries and Trotz inexplicably swapping out Ryan Jones for Wade Belak, but here's a guess:
New Jersey's lineup has been shuffled with Kovalchuk's arrival, but here's a general idea:
The Predators really improved on the penalty kill and on defense as a whole against the Rangers, but the Devils are members of the NHL's elite. IF Nashville were to stay disciplined, meaning no boneheaded turnovers or penalties, and IF Jason Arnott, Steve Sullivan, and Martin Erat played up to their potential, then this would be a heck of a contest. This rarely happens, however, and a half-effort Predator squad will lose to the sort of team the Devils are 9 times out of 10. New Jersey 3, Nashville 2.