The Nashville Predators take a break from Western Conference opponents tonight, as they head to the Bank Atlantic Center in Miami, Florida to do battle with Tomas Vokoun and the Florida Panthers. This is Nashville's second meeting with Florida this year, the first one being a 3-1 Predator victory at Bridgestone Arena. The Panthers aren't mathematically eliminated, but they're nine points back of Boston with eight games remaining. The Predators, on the other hand, are in the thick of it and managed to hold down fifth place over a chaotic weekend. A win tonight against a lesser opponent would give Nashville a little breathing room heading into Tuesday's showdown against Los Angeles.
Programming Note: This game isn't on Florida or Nashville TV, so be sure to tune your radio dial to 104.5 FM for your fill of Pete and Terry!
After the jump, Dan Ellis gets the start and David Booth, concussed again?
While the Predators have still won seven of nine, some bad habits are beginning to rear their heads. Nashville seems to be relying on Pekka Rinne to play spectacularly, which he has, but not scoring will only bring heartbreak in the long run. The Preds scored 1 goal against the Stars, 1 against the Blue Jackets, none against the Wings, and 3 against Phoenix. We know Nashville can light the lamp (remember that mid season stretch when we looked like the Capitals?), but the inconsistencies lately have been frustrating. The Panthers could be a good opponent to break out of the scoring funk, so maybe we'll see some fireworks tonight (and no, I don't mean yet another Kendal McArdle-Jordin Tootoo fight).
Since its the Panthers and there's no reason to rush back, I doubt that Jason Arnott and Joel Ward even traveled with the team.
UPDATE: Martin Erat didn't make the trip, but Joel Ward did. We don't know if Ward will play, however.
We're hearing reports that Dan Ellis will make his first appearance since the San Jose Debacle, which makes sense considering Pekka Rinne needs rest in preparation for the big game against the Kings tomorrow night:
#39 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Jun 19, 1980
|2009 - Dan Ellis||30||1654||14||13||75||2.72||819||744||.908||1|
Its been a bit of a rough year for Panthers' fans. They've now lost their best forward and franchise player David Booth for an extended period due to a concussion - twice. First was the hit by Mike Richards, and now Booth has been ruled out for the year thanks to Jaroslav Spacek. You have to feel for Booth, as he was a leading candidate for the US Olympic team, and is a fantastic young player. Florida toyed with a playoff spot for a while, but eventually fell off thanks to inconsistency and the lack of a big time scorer. It hasn't been all bad, though, as the Panthers have seen the continued emergence of a strong young core. Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss, Booth, prospect Jakob Markstrom, all make up a promising base from which to build. I see Florida rebounding quicker than any of the other basement dwellers, including Columbus.
Likely my favorite former Predator, this is the only time I can ever root against him...
#29 / Goalie / Florida Panthers
Jul 02, 1976
|2009 - Tomas Vokoun||61||3575||23||26||146||2.45||2012||1866||.927||7|
Hopefully the Predators have an awful taste in their mouths after Saturday night's loss. The Panthers are not overly dangerous, but would probably love to play spoiler against a team gearing up for the playoffs. Nashville needs to minimize their mistakes, and most of all capitalize on special teams. Predators 4, Panthers 2 in a Barry Trotz-type game-hard work, good defense, and a win.
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