Pekka could use some support from the guys in front of him. (PHOTO: USA Today Sports)

Gameday: Nashville Predators at Anaheim Ducks, 1/26/13

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

at ANAHEIM DUCKS

January 26th, 2013
Honda Center
Anaheim, California
9:30 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Game available in Atlanta market

These two teams both have four points in the standings and both are both coming off their poorest performances of the season so far. The Nashville Predators were shut out by St. Louis two nights back and managed just 13 shots on goal, while the Anaheim Ducks took a 5-0 beating at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks last night.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

(2-1-0, 3rd in Pacific)

Anaheim’s squad is largely unchanged from the one that Nashville got past in six games in the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals, but they’re arguably better off now that former head coach Randy Carlyle is playing Wheel of Leaf Fortune in Toronto and former Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau is running the show in SoCal.

Saku Koivu will test the Nashville Predators defense

Saku Koivu had five points in two games before last night’s shutout loss. (PHOTO: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Key players

Victor Fasth looks likely to get his first NHL start for the Ducks after Jonas Hiller played all of last night’s loss to Vancouver. He’s been goalie of the year in the Swedish Elitserien two years running, but he’s an untested commodity in the NHL.

Saku Koivu was a big factor in the Duck’s two wins, helping on two goals in each game and scoring one of his own in the victory at Calgary. His five points are tied for the team lead.

Others to watch

The ageless Teemu Selanne had two goals and two assists in the Ducks’ Opening Night win at Vancouver, but he’s been held scoreless in 36 shifts since then.

The Nashville Predators will try to agitate Corey Perry

Getting under Corey Perry’s skin isn’t overly difficult. (PHOTO: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Captain Ryan Getzlaf is already looking bettee than he did in 2011-12, having scored two goals and added two assists in just three games.

Corey Perry has three points in the team’s three games, but he was also assessed nine penalty minutes in last night’s blowout loss to Vancouver. Five of those were for fighting with Keith Ballard even though Ballard never got to throw a punch due to a wardrobe malfunction. He’s as chirpy as they come, and it isn’t hard to imagine one of the Preds getting under his skin and goading him into doing something stupid. Some power play time at Perry’s expense would hurt his team and help Nashville, which has had trouble setting up in the offensive zone playing 5-on-5.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

(1-1-2, 3rd in Central)

Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz

Barry Trotz hasn’t been thrilled with the Nashville Predators’ play this season. (PHOTO: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Nashville suffered its first regulation loss of the season in St. Louis on Thursday, a 3-0 decision that saw them put just 13 shots on net. They’ll have to do better than that if they want to beat a Ducks squad that’s averaging four goals per game even after being shut out by Vancouver last night.

Key players

Barry Trotz began juggling his lines in the third period of the St. Louis game on Thursday. He didn’t find any success then but he’s likely to continue experimenting, and that makes him the key player. If he can find the right combination to crack the Ducks the Preds could begin getting back to Predator hockey. He’ll probably settle for anything better than the shoddy performance the team put up against St. Louis.

Nashville Predators forward Colin Wilson could see top-line minutes against Anaheim

I’d like to see Colin Wilson playing on the top line tonight. (PHOTO: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)

Others to watch

Martin Erat had the key goal in the win against Minnesota earlier this week. He’s been one of the most consistent scorers on this team for a decade now, and he led the team in points last season. When Erat plays well, so do the Predators. He and Mike Fisher will probably have a new linemate for at least part of the game.

Colin Wilson could very well be that linemate. He’s been playing the second line with David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist the last two games and has looked strong at moments, but in yesterday’s practice Gabriel Bourque took his place on the second line while Wilson moved up. Could his size and willingness to go to the corners add another dimension to Nashville’s top line?

Paul Gaustad is listed as probable to get back on the ice after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury. The Preds won only 26 of 56 faceoffs against Minnesota and 27 of 54 against St. Louis, so they’ll be glad to have him back on the fourth line and especially the penalty kill.

Bottom line

Both of these teams are looking to recover from shutouts at the hands of tough teams. The winner will be the one who adjusts the best. Anaheim may have a little extra motivation since the Preds have owned them the last few years. Hopefully, Nashville will take some motivation from Pekka Rinne, who has posted respectable numbers (2.53 GAA, .912 SV%) playing behind a team that hasn’t shaken off all its lockout rust yet; he deserves a win and the team needs to work to get him one.

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