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Nashville Predators vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Preview: Welcoming the Champs

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After losing three in a row it doesn’t get any easier for the Predators. Here come the Stanley Cup Champions!

NHL: Nashville Predators at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Nashville Predators will play their second back-to-back in five games Saturday when they take on the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

The two teams appear to be heading in opposite directions. The Penguins have won three of their first five games while the Predators are on a three game losing streak and looking to fix their 5-on-5 scoring troubles.

Two of the Penguins top three scorers are former Predators Patric Hornqvist and Matt Cullen. Hornqvist has two goals, two assists, and four points through five games while Cullen has one goal, three assists, and four points. The Predators leading scorer is captain Mike Fisher who has three power play goals in four games.

The Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins come into Nashville in second place in the Metropolitan division with 3-1-1 record.

Pittsburgh has been hit hard with injuries. They will be without superstar Sidney Crosby, who is still recovering from a concussion. Derrick Pouliot was put on IR Friday and the club recalled defenseman David Warsofsky. Warsofsky has one goal and one assist in his only game for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Kris Letang and Conor Sheary are both listed as day-to-day with upper body injuries.

The Penguins will start Marc-Andre Fleury for the sixth straight game. They re-signed Matt Murray to a 3 year contract extension on Thursday worth $3.75 million per season, but he still isn’t fully healed from his broken hand.

Pittsburgh has the third-worst scoring offense in the league with 2.20 goals-per-game. They did come back from a two-goal deficit to beat the San Jose Sharks on Thursday 3-2.

The Nashville Predators

The Predators have lost three in a row after an opening night victory against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The big question for Nashville is who will start in goal? Pekka Rinne has been the Predators best player this season, but he faced 42 shots in the Predators 5-3 loss to Detroit on Friday. Coach Peter Laviolette will have to decide whether or not to start Rinne in the second game of a back-to-back or play Marek Mazanec for the second time in five games. Mazanec’s last start came against Chicago when he surrendered five goals on 27 shots in the 5-3 loss.

Both Ryan Johansen and Craig Smith missed a majority of the game against Detroit due to illness. All eyes will be on Milwaukee; presumably most fans are hoping that Vladislav Kamenev gets a call up if either Johansen or Smith miss Saturday’s game.

The Predators will enter the game Saturday with the second ranked power play in the league. They have scored on eight of 15 chances, good for 53.3%. The problem for the Predators has been their 5-on-5 scoring, or lack thereof. Through four games the Predators have only mustered two 5-on-5 goals, worst in the league. However, a positive for Nashville is that Pittsburgh is tied for third-worst in 5-on-5 goals with six.

Reasons to Watch

  • To see if the Predators can fix their 5-on-5 woes. With only two goals through four games, who will break the Predators out of their slump? Conversely, with a power play unit that scores roughly half of the time, every power play should have fans on the edge of their seats.
  • To see if Peter Laviolette juggles the line combinations once again. If Johansen and Smith miss any more games the Predators may have to dip into the Milwaukee talent pool.
  • To find out what everyone ate that has made the team so sick.
  • There’s a possibility Forsberg, Fiala, or both score their first goals of the season.
  • It’s always a good time when Patric Hornqvist is crowding the net.

Get Your Preds Fix

The puck drops at 7:00 pm C/ST. The game can be viewed on FS-TN, streamed on FOX Sports GO, or you can listen on the radio at 102.5 The Game.