The Nashville Predators were lucky to leave Staples Center with two points, after giving up a huge lead for the second game in a row. They still have to stay in Southern California, though, as they head down I-5 (or "The 5" as obnoxious people call it) to test their luck against the Anaheim Ducks.
It will truly be a test of will for the Predators, who have seemed to be in the giving spirit well after the holidays. The way they have just been handing over leads recently is something even the Scroogiest of Scrooges would find heartwarming.
The Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are still sitting pretty atop the entire NHL, and are the only other team (other than Nashville) to still be in single digit regulation losses. They are coming off a Friday win against the St. Louis Blues, and captain Ryan Getzlaf was named the NHL's "First Star" for the month of December. Getzlaf leads the Ducks with 43 points, which is tied for 3rd in the league. No other Duck is close; Ryan Kessler is second with 29 points.
Anaheim is currently a middle of the pack possession team, sending 51.7% of total unblocked shot attempts toward the opponents net, good for 11th in the league. They are also an "average" team when it comes to scoring and preventing goals. Their penalty kill isn't great and their power play worse and they are neither over or under performing the percentages. Statistically, they are as mundane a team as you could find, yet they still manage to win a ton of games. Bruce Boudreau coached teams always find a way to get it done in the regular season.
With plenty of days rest, Frederick Andersen is likely to start tonight. The second-year pro is having himself a nice season, and has turned out to be their workhorse as the backup carousel has been spinning. Pray for another Quick hook, so we can see Ilya "Made for TV" Bryzgalov get some face time.
The Nashville Predators
Let's get this out of the way right now: it would be a mistake to start Pekka Rinne tonight.
We'll have more in depth info about this early this week, but it's a proven fact that goalies starting the second of a back-to-back after playing the night before perform significantly worse than if they rested. Rinne is no different, and overall he does not play well when playing both games of a back-to-back.
Rinne is on pace to start over 70 games, and at some point Hutton needs to step in to relieve him. The Finnish netminder is a workhorse, but that's an insane amount of starts. Hutton may not inspire much confidence (in the fans or the coaching staff) but it's his job to step in to give Rinne the occasional rest. After the debacles in Chicago and Los Angeles, Pekka and his team can live with him on the bench for a game.
In other news, it was good to see Mark Arcobello and Viktor Stalberg get on the scoresheet last night. Arcobello is carrying on the storied legacy of the #26 jersey that Matt Hendricks left behind, and Stalberg is proving that necromancy is real. Also, the next point that Filip Forsberg scores will tie Alexander Radulov for the Predators' franchise record for most points by a rookie. Not sure if that speaks more toward the organization lack of development, Forsberg's insane talent, or a bit of both. Either way, it's a huge milestone for everyone involved.
And Now, This...
For the embarrassment in your life. I hope they give these away to everyone in attendance when the Honda Center hosts Country Night tonight.
Sights and Sounds
Game hops back to FS-TN at 7 p.m. CST tonight, and as always is on 102.5 The Game. I'll be tuning in through XM from somewhere along I-40. At least I hope. If I'm still on 81 at game time, something has gone very wrong.
Let's use Southern California's own bands against them. Here's hoping out of those cloud fall the tears of a million Ducks fans after being humiliated by a Carter Hutton shutout. (Or at least some form of win where the Predators don't give up the lead.)