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Predators vs. Canucks preview: The Late Late Show, Live From Vancouver

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The Nashville Predators will try to get their game back on track tonight at Rogers Arena in Vancouver (9:00 p.m. on SportSouth), against the team which eliminated them in the Western Conference Semifinals last spring. Tune into 102.5 The Game for the pre-game show starting at 8:00 p.m. (you can even use their iPhone app), as I'm joining Willy Daunic for both the pre- and post-game festivities, and we see how the Preds respond to what is perhaps the stiffest test of this early portion of the 2011-2012 regular season.

One special note - you former Thrashers fans in Georgia should be able to catch this on NHL Center Ice, as the NHL has reportedly lifted their blackout of the Predators and Hurricanes broadcasts there.

Follow after the jump as we break down the matchup...

The Stats

What the heck, let's go ahead and start rolling out the current-season team stats from Behind The Net:

Nashville (2-2-1) at Vancouver (2-3-1)
NSH Offense vs. VAN Defense VAN Offense vs. NSH Defense
5-on-5
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 NSH Offense  1.8 (22nd)   20.6 (30th)  8.9 (13th)  2.9 (26th)   33.6 (29th)   915 (18th)   NSH Defense
 VAN Defense 2.5 (19th) 27.1 (8th)  907 (22nd)  2.1 (19th) 31.5 (7th) 6.6 (9th)  VAN Offense
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %
Special Teams
GF/60 SF/60 Shoot % GA/60 SA/60 Save %
 NSH 5-on-4 8.4 (5th) 59.1 (8th) 14.3 (8th) 3.6 (8th) 41 (6th) 913 (15th)  NSH 4-on-5
 VAN 4-on-5 8.2 (25th) 50.3 (18th) 838 (24th) 6.6 (12th) 59.8 (7th) 11.1 (13th)  VAN 5-on-4
GA/60 SA/60 Save % GF/60 SF/60 Shoot %

I think we've covered the "Preds are getting killed on the shot clock" analysis for the time being, but that doesn't make it any less true, or significant. Pekka Rinne can only do so much. Perhaps Nashville's best hope here is on the power play, where they've enjoyed some early success, while the Canucks have struggled on the penalty kill.

Vancouver Canucks

It's the same old story up in Vancouver these days - the Sedin twins are leading a deep and talented team, but Roberto Luongo continues to be dogged by criticism whenever things turn sour, such as Tuesday night when the New York Rangers came to town. The Canucks' skaters dominated play, but Henrik Lundqvist put on a show and helped the Blueshirts steal out of town with a 4-0 win.

In that game, Vancouver welcomed Ryan Kesler back into the lineup, after off-season hip surgery kept him out of action. He played 19:07 across a variety of situations, so it looks like he is indeed ready to contribute for them. Let's just hope he's not up to the form he showed during the playoffs, however, when he carried the Canucks to victory over Nashville. Interestingly enough, outside of that series he hasn't really had much success against the Preds, with just 2 goals and 5 assists in 25 career games, with a Plus/Minus of -10.

Of course, the Canucks are represented by our SB Nation brethren at...

Nucks_misconduct_logo_medium_medium

As for Vancouver's lineup, here's how Nucks Misconduct lists their lines and D pairings currently:

FORWARDS

Burrows-H. Sedin-D. Sedin

Hodgson-Kesler-Higgins

Samuelsson-Malhotra-Hansen

Volpatti-Lapierre-Weise

DEFENCE

Hamhuis-Bieksa

Edler-Salo

Ballard -Alberts

Personally, I'd enjoy seeing former Predator Alexander Sulzer if he could crack the lineup tonight, I'd like to see how he's coming along since leaving Nashville.

Nashville Predators

Nothing focuses the mind like a major challenge, eh? Fresh off a series of disappointing performances which triggered a candid blast from Jerred Smithson, the Predators have spent the last two days getting their collective house in order, while Barry Trotz has shuffled the lines trying to find combinations which might click.

So far, the only change we know about is that Niclas Bergfors will play, and that Cal O`Reilly and Patric Hornqvist are also supposed to be ready even though they didn't practice yesterday. I won't bother posting the lines from yesterday's practice given O'Reilly & Hornqvist's absences, but stay tuned for a mid-day update.

As for what to look for tonight? Let me set some expectations, from what I wrote Monday:

In Vancouver, the Canucks are off to a middling 2-2-1 start, but they're still the same team which dominated the West last season. This is a team which has the kind of depth which Preds fans can envy, so the task here will be to shorten the game as much as possible, keeping it a low-event affair that gives Pekka Rinne the best chance to steal a victory.    

Solid team defense will be the foundation tonight - that means guys paying attention to the situation and not having an extra man caught deep, or heading to the bench for a change when the Canucks are rushing through the neutral zone. Pucks need to be cleared out of the defensive end responsibly, and chipped deep into the offensive end in order to pressure their defense.

Shea Weber and Ryan Suter will likely be tasked with shutting down the Sedin twins again, but that still leaves a handful for the rest of the blueline to handle.

Victory tonight would simply be to see a health dose of "Predator Hockey", regardless of the result on the scoreboard. But we'll be keeping an eye on that, anyway!