Your Nashville Predators take on the New York Rangers tonight at 7:00 CST at Bridgestone Arena. Let’s see how these teams stack up.
- Predators 11-9-2 (24 pts) 6th in the Central
- Rangers 11-11-0 (22 pts) 3rd in the Metropolitan
- Predators 3-2-0
- Rangers 2-3-0
- Goals per game – Preds 2.4 (24th) – Rangers 2.1 (27th)
- Goals against – Preds 2.9 (20th) – Rangers 2.5 (12th)
- Power Play % – Preds 21.6 (7th) – Rangers 19.2 (16th)
- Penalty Kill % – Preds 82.7 (15th) – Rangers 84.2 (9th)
This will be the first of two consecutive home games for the Preds, the first time that has happened since October 24 and 26. While the Preds have struggled to be consistent on the road, but they are 5-2-1 at home and have only allowed more than 3 goals against in two of those games. The story for Nashville has been the recent and rapid turnaround at both ends of the rink. After scoring 2 goals over the course of 4 games, the Preds exploded for 7 against Chicago and 6 more in the two games since.
The offensive improvement has been forced upwards on the strength of the Preds’ power play. The Preds have 5 power play goals in the last three games. In fact, the Preds are 10-0-1 when they score a power play goal. Inversely, the Preds are 1-9-1 when they do not score on the power play. For a team that plays a tight checking game, that one power play goal is clearly making the difference and not only on the scoreboard. The Preds do not have a lot of top end offensive talent and the man advantage allows those offensive players the Preds do have a little more time and space and the chance to do more with less.
The increase in wins also coincides with an increase in points from players that Nashville relies on to score. Colin Wilson, Matt Cullen, Patric Hornqvist, Craig Smith and Shea Weber all had strong weeks and will need to continue to produce for the Preds to keep winning games.
There has also been a marked improvement on the defensive end as well. A change in pairings to bring Roman Josi back together with Weber and moving Seth Jones off the top pair has both defenders looking more comfortable on the ice. However, the biggest change has come in net. Marek Mazanec has been the answer to a lot of questions plaguing the Predators after Pekka Rinne came up injured. Mazanec has overtaken Carter Hutton as the Preds current number one netminder and has started to play like he belongs in the NHL on a nightly basis.
The Rangers have also struggled in the goal scoring department, but look to be on the upswing as well. Rick Nash recently returned to the Rangers lineup and scored his first goal on Thursday night in his fifth game of the season. Thursday was Nash’s second game back after being out for around six weeks with concussion symptoms. Chris Kreider also looks like he may be starting to heat up with points in three of his last five games. He played a big part in the Ranger’s playoff run in 2012 before falling out of favor with John Tortorella last season.
The biggest obstacle for the Preds on Saturday night just might be Henrik Lundqvist. Lunqvist led the Rangers to three consecutive wins over the Preds including a shutout the last time these teams met. His record notwithstanding, he has been strong lately, only allowing more than two goals twice in his last ten games.
Prediction – Predators 3-1. Mazanec continues to dazzle and Matt Cullen scores a PP goal for the game winner.