Pekka Rinne was chased from two of last season's games against the Canucks. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Gameday: Vancouver Canucks at Nashville Predators, 2/22/13

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

at NASHVILLE PREDATORS

February 22nd, 2013
Bridgestone Arena
Nashville, Tennessee
7:00 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee

The Nashville Predators lost to the Vancouver Canucks in six games when they met in the Western Conference Semifinal back in 2011. Last season they split their four games but Nashville got five points for finishing 2-1-1.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

(8-4-5, 2nd in Central)

There have been two Nashville Predators teams of late: the one that wins games 1-0 in overtime, and the one that loses games 6-5 in regulation. Two days’ rest might help the team figure out how to combine the best qualities of its two personalities.

Key players

With back-to-back games tonight and Saturday, and the disaster in Colorado on Monday still fresh in mind, the coaching staff has a decision to make for this game. Do they go with Pekka Rinne (7-3-4, 1.67 GAA, .935 SV%) tonight and Chris Mason (1-1-1, 3.42, .888) at Detroit? Do they flip-flop Rinne and Mason? Do they just start Pekka in both games and let him rest during Monday’s game against Dallas?

Colin Wilson (5G-9A) is on the hottest streak of his young career, having scored seven points in the last five games. Nobody else on the Predators bench is driving the play like Willy right now, making him the team’s offensive MVP.

Nashville Predators forward Sergei Kostitsyn

Sergei has four points in his last three games. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Others to watch

Sergei Kostitsyn (2G-5A) was demoted to the third line earlier this season but Coach Barry Trotz has been giving him more ice time as of late. SK74 has averaged almost 17:30 in the last three games and has responded with a goal and three assists. He even shot the puck a season-high four times in Colorado. What’s the world coming to?

Nashville is 4-0 this season when tenacious winger Gabriel Bourque (4G-2A) scores a goal. That probably has something to do with the fact that three of them have come via tip-in.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

(9-3-4, 1st in Northwest)

The Canucks were slow out of the gate but seem to have found their stride as of late, going 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. They come to Nashville having played two games in three days, including a shootout loss to Chicago on Tuesday and a 4-3 win over Dallas last night to break their three-game losing streak.

Roberto Luongo faces the Nashville Predators

Roberto Luongo returns to Nashville. (PHOTO: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

Key players

With Cory Schneider (5-3-1, 2.68, .912) having played two straight games, Roberto Luongo (4-0-3, 1.63, .934) is likely to start in net tonight. He was nominally Vancouver’s backup at the start of the season but has been one of the better goalies in the league so far.

Daniel Sedin (5G-12A) and Henrik Sedin (2G-13A) are still piling up points – 32 total between them already this season. They’re both that annoying kind of player who makes everyone around them better.

Ryan Kesler hurt the Nashville Predators badly in 2011

Ryan Kesler demolished Nashville in the 2011 playoffs. (PHOTO: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports)

Others to watch

Ryan Kesler (1G-3A) has only been back in the Canucks lineup for four games, but he’s made up for lost time with a point per game. He was the driving force for Vancouver when they beat Nashville in the second round of the playoffs two seasons back.

Alexander Edler (4G-8A) is the Canucks’ top-scoring blueliner. He also happens to be third on the entire team in points, behind only the Sedin-bots, and third among all NHL defensemen as well.

Bottom line

The Vancouver Canucks already have more options on offense than most teams. With Ryan Kesler back they’re just about at full strength again. If the Nashville Predators team that plays strong defense and forecheck like nobody’s business show up, this will be a good game. If the Nashville squad that gets outworked and gives up soft goals is in town, it will be a long night for Preds fans.

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