Game Preview #16: Nashville Heads North Of The Border

By Amanda DiPaolo

Season Records

Nashville Predators 7-5-3
Toronto Maples Leafs 5-8-3

TORONTO - JANUARY 13: Carrlton the bear, macot of the Toronto Maple Leafs sits with fans during the game against the Nashville Predators at the Air Canada Centre January 13, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Carrlton the bear, the Maple Leafs mascot watches the Preds in January 2009, the last time the Preds visited the Air Canada Centre (Photo: Yardbarker.com)

It’s been 7 games since Nashville has won in regulation. The Predators will try to rectify the regulation-winless streak on Tuesday night against a struggling Toronto team. The game marks the Predators first visit to the Air Canada Centre since January 13, 2009.

Both teams are last in their respective divisions, but the ultra-competitive Central Division would have Nashville back in the playoffs with a win against the Leafs. Despite their position in the standings, both teams got off to fast starts. Toronto opened the season 4-0. The Predators went 5-0-3 the start the season. Since those fast starts, both teams struggled. Toronto is on an 8-game skid. The Predators lost 5 games in a row before winning their last two against Central Division Rivals St. Louis and Chicago.

Toronto and Nashville last played on Saturday night. The Predators needed a shootout to beat the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks in front of a soldout home crowd at Bridgestone Arena. Toronto got out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period against the Vancouver Canucks but were unable to hang on, losing 5-3.

Nashville is 1-0-2 against the Eastern Conference. At home, the Predators lost in overtime to both the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Away, Anders Lindback made over 40 saves to give the Predators a win over Dan Ellis and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Keys to the game:

Discipline and Defense. Nashville and Toronto are both disciplined teams, each being shorthanded only 55 times so far this season, which is tied for the third fewest in the NHL.

The last time the Predators allowed the Maple Leafs to score a power play goal was in 2004. Nashville ranks 20th on the penalty kill with an 81.8% kill off rate. Toronto’s inability to score goals means the penalty kill is essential to the team’s success Tuesday night. But Toronto ranks near the bottom of the league with only a 74.6% kill off rate.

Toronto might be struggling to score goals, but Predators goalie Pekka Rinne needs to get off to a good start. Last year, the Maple Leafs played in Nashville and scored three goals on eight shots in the first period. Rinne got pulled from the game. The Predators would tie the game in the first half of the third period, but Phil Kessel would score to take the lead and Toronto won, 4-3.

Injury Report:

Last week, the Predators got Marcel Goc, Martin Erat and Ryan Suter back into the lineup. Still out is center Matthew Lombardi with a concussion suffered during the second game of the season when the Predators played Chicago at the United Center. Lombardi was acquired in the off season, signed as an unrestricted free agent.

The Maple Leafs have two injured players. Colby Armstrong, also an off-season acquisition, is out with finger surgery and a fractured foot. Captain Dion Phaneuf is out after having surgery on his left leg. Both players are expected to be out 4-6 weeks.

Last Time Out:

The Predators hold a 6-4-(1)-0 record against the Maple Leafs. When in Toronto, Nashville’s record is 4-3-(1)-0. Last year, it only took 9 minutes for the Maple Leafs to chase Rinne from the net taking a 3-0 lead. Nashville was able to tie the game by the midway mark of the third period on goals from Marcel Goc, Ryan Jones and Cody Franson. Kessel scored with less than 7 minutes to play in the game to give the Maple Leafs their first-ever win on Bridgestone Arena ice.

Game Preview Fun Fact:

Steve Sullivan (along with Jason Smith and Alyn McCauley) was traded from New Jersey to the Maple Leafs on February 25, 1997 for-the ultra fan favorite amongst Leafs fans-Doug Gilmour (along with Dave Ellett and a third-round choice in the 1999 Entry Draft).

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Tags: Dion Phaneuf Nashville Predators Pekka Rinne Toronto Maple Leafs

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