The Preds are in Tampa Bay tonight to take on the Lightning and face their former goalie, Anders Lindback.
These clubs will be meeting for the first of two times this year, as Nashville begins a stretch of three-straight games against Eastern Conference foes.
Both teams will be without (arguably) their most recognizable players as Carter Hutton will start for Nashville in place of goalie Pekka Rinne (hip infection) and the Lightning will try to maintain their surprising strong play without All-Star forward Steven Stamkos (broken leg). As we detailed in our recent update on Rinne, the Preds netminder will have an MRI tomorrow that will go a long way in determining when he will return to the ice (currently expected to be around the start of the new year). For the Bolts, Stamkos has progressed much quicker than was initially predicted and may even return as early as February.
Nashville gets back on the winning trail if:
- Many of the elements from the first period of the Blackhawks game can be duplicated for a full game. Nashville’s head coach Barry Trotz was quick to call his team’s play in the first period, “one of their better efforts to start a game this year” (despite trailing 2-1 after 20 minutes). The Preds had 17 shots and three power play chances (converting on one of them) in the first period and maintained a high-pressure forecheck for several long stretches. The problem was that Nashville’s play in the second and third period on Tuesday were not anywhere close to the quality of play they had in the first frame and the team was never able to get back into the game.
The Bolts add another win to their impressive home record if:
- The Lightning use their team-speed to push the Predators D back. The Lightning are a remarkable 12-3-1 at home this campaign and are also 4-0-1 against the Central Division (including a season sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks?!). Tampa’s swift and relentless forecheck has been able to over-power even the strongest in the Preds division and the same recipe of long, quick breakout passes and three-man deep offensive pressure should be used again tonight against Nashville. If the Bolts can take advantage of the Preds young defensemen and inexperience goalie early, they may be able to run away with this one.
We’re just a little more than an hour from tonight’s contest between these two. Expect a higher scoring affair with a late power play goal or key penalty kill likely being the difference.