After a strong 3-0 week featuring back-to-back wins over Colorado and a home victory against Philadelphia, the Nashville Predators are taking their act on the road. A 3-game trip will set the stage for a home-ice matchup against one of the key opponents.
Follow after the jump as we break it all down!
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Monday @ NY Islanders (Noon, FS-TN)
The Preds kick things off with a trip to Nassau Coliseum, to face an Islanders team which came into the season with high hopes but instead finds itself looking forward to another lottery pick this summer. The capper came with news recently that Rick DiPietro will be out for the remainder of the season following sports hernia surgery. Still under contract through the 2019-2010 season (at the bargain price of $4.5 million per year), DiPietro has played just 47 games over the last four seasons.
Nashville has enjoyed some success against the Islanders over the years (9-3-2 total record), but New York has won four of their last five on home ice.
Everyone's best guess is that we'll see Anders Lindback take the net for this one, allowing Pekka Rinne to handle the rest of the week on a typical every-other-day schedule.
Tuesday @ NY Rangers (6:30 p.m., NBC Sports)
The Predators face the Rangers in their first appearance on the new NBC Sports network (the artist formerly known as Versus). The Blueshirts stand 1st overall in the NHL standings, but haven't won on home ice since December 26. One opportunity for improvement could be on the Rangers' power play, currently 23rd-ranked.
There won't be any complaints about the play of Marian Gaborik, however, who is delivering on all those expectations about being New York's prime-time sniper:
#10 / Right Wing / New York Rangers
Feb 14, 1982
|2011 - Marian Gaborik||42||23||11||34||9||16||5||0||5||138||16.6|
Thursday @ Columbus Blue Jackets (6:00 p.m., FS-TN)
Nashville returns to playing against Western Conference opponents Thursday night at Columbus, who have once gain . The Preds are 3-0-1 against the Blue Jackets so far this season, including a pair of ridiculous come-from-behind victories on December 8 and December 22. As if the laughing stock in Columbus couldn't get any worse, this little tidbit in Bruce Garrioch's Sunday column takes the hilarity to a whole 'nother level (extreme caution advised, as Garrioch is basically Eklund with a newspaper gig):
The leading candidate to be the next GM of the Jackets: Former Toronto GM John Ferguson Jr., who is quietly working away as a scout for the Sharks.
Just ask your friendly neighborhood Maple Leafs fan what they think of that idea...
Saturday vs. Chicago Blackhawks (7:00 p.m., FS-TN)
The game of the week takes place Saturday as the Preds return to Bridgestone Arena, for a date with the Blackhawks. I made a rare trip to a Predators practice on Friday, and when I asked Shea Weber what the team would need to do to catch the teams leading the Central Division, his answer was simple: "just beat them". Not something like "play better team defense", or "give 110%", or any number of other sports cliches. The focus is on those head-to-head matchups against Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis, teams against which the Preds are 4-2-1 so far this season.
A pack of Blackhawks fans led by the crew at Second City Hockey are making the trip to Nashville for this one, so here's to hoping that they enjoy their stay, but head home disappointed.