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Nashville Predators vs. Anaheim Ducks Preview: In Medias Res

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The Ducks roll into town tonight. I'm assuming Teemu Selanne will score two goals. He's still playing, right?

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators will look to pick up right where they left off two days ago as they take on the Anaheim Ducks tonight at Bridgestone Arena. It will be hard to top Tuesday's excitement vs. the Lightning... that was one heckuva regular season hockey game. But the Ducks, despite their struggles, bring a full roster of quality forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders, and a damn good coach in Bruce Boudreau. Could be in for another tense game tonight.

We are 7.3% of the way through the regular season. So far, so good.

The Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks have had scoring problems, but I'd rather not talk about it. I'm worried if I talk about how Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Jakob Silfverberg all have zero goals combined, then they will all score tonight. So, in that case, WOW, WHAT A RIP-ROARIN' START, HUH? They've all combined for like 100 goals and like over 200 points. They are certainly bound for an off-night against the Predators tonight.

At the other end of the ice, Frederik Andersen has been outstanding in three starts. He will also be well-rested, having last played in Friday's loss to Colorado, where he gave up two goals. We already talked about the scoring issues with the Ducks, and nobody is lamenting those issues more than Andersen. He's put up a .947 save % in three games, stopping 108 of 114 shots sent his way... and no wins to show for it. Wow.

It's still early in the season, and there's no doubt that the Ducks will be right there contending for the Pacific Division title come March and April. But you don't want to dig yourself too big of a hole in today's league, especially in the loaded Western Conference. I predict by Christmas the Ducks are rolling nicely, having solved their offensive problems.

But hopefully they wait til after tonight.

The Nashville Predators

Speaking of goal-scoring, the recent success in that department gives us reason to be hopeful for the rest of the regular season. No doubt it is FANG-TASTIC to see James Neal absolutely destroying the puck, Filip Forsberg piling up the points, and Craig Smith showing his usual consistency. But this team is still very top-heavy right now. Consider the goal production and where it's coming from:

"Top 6" Forwards

Forsberg, Neal, Ribeiro, Wilson, Fisher, Smith

11 goals

"Bottom 6" Forwards

Hodgson, Bourque, Jarnkrok, Gaustad, Nystrom, Arvidsson, Watson

3 goals

Defense

Weber, Josi, Jones, Jackman, Ellis, Ekholm

3 goals

That's 65% of the early goal scoring coming from the top 6 forwards group... really just four guys, Forsberg, Neal, Smith, and Fisher. And the bottom 6 group has just as many goals as the defense. That's obviously going to have to change. The Predators will need contributions from players like Hodgson, Bourque, Jarnkrok, etc. to have a team that can truly compete for a top spot in the playoffs.

Having said that, most of us have probably liked what we've seen out of the 3rd and 4th lines from an intensity standpoint. They have high energy, generate lots of pressure, and are great at forcing turnovers. It's likely that the top 6 group has benefited in some way from the work of the bottom 6 (gained offensive zone starts, outworking/tiring the defense, etc.) so it's not like they aren't contributing. Just need to see some pucks in the net is all.

Reasons To Watch

  • Even though I just said we need to see more scoring out of the bottom 6, we also need to see a goal from Colin Wilson, who has disappeared. Let's get it going tonight Willy.
  • Defensive depth will be important all year long. If Jackman and Ellis are out again, we need to see improvement out of Anthony Bitteto and Victor Bartley. Or maybe we need to see them not out there together. Gripes, that was tough to watch. Jackman says he's good to go, so we'll see.
  • When Pekka Rinne does something like this again, you won't want to miss it.

The Important Details

7 PM puck drop, FS-TN, 102.5 The Game, but come on out to the Bridge! Help keep that sold-out streak going!