Nashville Predators vs Anaheim Ducks Preview: the Ultimate Pre-Olympic Game

The Nashville Predators are scrambling for every point they can earn in the Western Conference standings, but they'll have a tough task taking two from the NHL's top team tonight.

The Stats

Anaheim Ducks Nashville Predators
Record 40-14-5 1st 25-23-10 24th
GF/Game 3.20 3rd 2.47 22nd
GA/Game 2.39 8th 2.90 22nd
5-on-5 Close SF/60 31.3 8th 29.5 15th
5-on-5 Close SA/60 27.9 9th 27.8 7th
Fenwick Close 50.80 13th 50.20 17th
5-on-5 Close Save % .928 9th .908 28th
5-on-4 GF/60 5.9 18th 6.6 10th
# of PP's/Gm 3.41 12th 2.98 28th
4-on-5 GA/60 6.2 18th 6.9 25th
# of PK's/Gm 3.36 17th 3.07 7th

Anaheim Ducks

Solid goaltending and a dynamic offensive attack have been hallmarks of Anaheim's remarkable season, and as usual with the Ducks that's largely due to star-quality talent leading the way up front, as both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry rank among the top 7 scorers in the entire league (by comparison Nashville's leading scorer, David Legwand, ranks 73rd).

Despite their league-leading record, however, the Ducks have faltered of late, with a 4-6-0 record in their last 10 games, including two shutout losses. Have they gone into cruise control leading up to the Olympic break, perhaps? That's one possible explanation. Tonight, they're not even bringing the legendary Teemu Selanne to town, giving him time to rest before heading over to Sochi.

That sounds like they're not putting 100% into tonight's game to me, and perhaps it opens up an opportunity for a Predators team that is desperate for points in the standings.

Anaheim Ducks Injuries

Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Sheldon Souray wrist 09/30/2013
Mark Fistric other-excused 02/01/2014
Nick Bonino other-excused 01/31/2014
Viktor Fasth other-excused 11/24/2013

Nashville Predators

The prospect of heading into the break within two or three points of a playoff spot is an exciting prospect for Nashville, as a recent 6-2-3 stretch has allowed them to creep closer to the pack. Leading the way of course is captain Shea Weber, and the local press is starting to bang the drum for not only his Norris Trophy candidacy, but also for that Hart Trophy as league MVP:

Now, let's look at the description of the Hart Trophy. It is given to the player "judged to be the most valuable to his team." Too often, in this correspondent's mind, the Hart simply goes to the player considered "the best player in the league," which is not the same as "the most valuable to his team." On an even more simplistic level, the Hart often goes to the player who leads the league in points.

In the past 27 games, Weber has figured in 36.2 percent of the Predators' non-shootout goals (25 of 69). Consider that at the outset of the season, Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, before he broke his leg, was said to be having a Hart-caliber season while accounting for 44 percent of his team's goals -€“ but Stamkos is a forward, whose job is mainly to score. Weber is a defenseman.

Also consider that since Oct. 22 the Predators have played without the other cornerstone of their franchise, goalie Pekka Rinne, who led the NHL in wins in 2011-12. The fact that the Predators are in the playoff race at all is mostly a testament to the way Weber has played.

--- John Manasso, Fox Sports Tennessee

Can Weber keep his personal momentum rolling, and carry the Predators to a much-needed victory? If you won't be at Bridgestone Arena tonight, tune in at 7:00 p.m. and join the Game Thread to follow all the action...