The Nashville Predators get back to business this week after a longer-than-usual All-Star break, hoping to build off their recent 18-5-0 record to challenge for the Central Division lead. While they don't return to Bridgestone Arena until a Saturday night contest with a key rival, they start the week with two road games against contending teams from each conference...
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Tuesday at Minnesota (7:00 p.m. Central on FS-TN)
After defying pre-season predictions by leading the NHL during the opening weeks of the season, the Wild fell apart in mid-December, going 4-11-4 since December 13th. Up in Minnesota, they're already contemplating who might go if the Wild turn into sellers at the Trade Deadline, rather than load up for a playoff run.
Their best chance to turn things around might to get Dany Heatley really going. While he leads the Wild in scoring, his performance so far hasn't lived up to expectations.
#15 / Left Wing / Minnesota Wild
Jan 21, 1981
|2011 - Dany Heatley||49||15||19||34||7||14||4||0||3||141||10.6|
Thursday at Philadelphia (6:00 p.m. Central on FS-TN)
A couple weeks ago, one of the Preds' more impressive wins of the month came against the Flyers in Nashville. The Erat-Fisher-Kostitsyn line led the way as the Predators took the lead and hung on for a bumpy ride down the stretch. Despite being a legit Eastern Conference contender, the Flyers boast only a 11-7-3 record on home ice, so the Predators should not be intimated at all by the challenge of gaining two points at Philly.
After missing a few games with a concussion, Claude Giroux has rocketed back up near the top of the NHL scoring ranks, second only to Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin:
#28 / Right Wing / Philadelphia Flyers
Jan 12, 1988
|2011 - Claude Giroux||44||18||37||55||0||23||5||0||5||128||14.1|
Saturday vs. St. Louis (7:00 p.m., no local TV)
Probably the most important battle of the week comes in Nashville on Saturday night, as the Blues come in to town. The interesting bit about the Blues' record so far is how widely their performance varies between home and the road. Even though they're among the top teams in the NHL standings, they'll bring just a 8-10-3 road record with them to Bridgestone Arena.
The big question is whether this guy will come down with the flu again, or will he take the ice against his former team?
#44 / Center / St. Louis Blues
Oct 11, 1974
|2011 - Jason Arnott||48||12||12||24||11||22||4||0||2||107||11.2|
So what are your expectations heading in to this week? I wouldn't call any of these games either especially tough or easy matchups. Minnesota has been up and down all season, the Flyers are strong but haven't played all that well at home, while the opposite is true of the Blues.