The Nashville Predators had a four game win streak snapped on Sunday evening by the Calgary Flames and look to start a new streak tonight at home against the Vancouver Canucks. This will be the last meeting of the season between the two teams, and Vancouver will be looking to get their first win of the season against Nashville. Nashville has won both meetings between to the two teams this season by a combined score of 8-2.
Nashville was downright embarrassed in their own house by the Flames on Sunday. For everything else that’s on the line tonight, pride may be a bigger motivator than anything.
Nashville will be looking to take advantage of a team playing their second game in as many nights. Vancouver helped out Nashville last night by defeating the Blues 4-1. Four different Canucks scored in the effort. They can help the Predators out again tonight by losing.
Vancouver is 6-3-1 in their last 10 and comes into tonight’s game second in the Pacific Division with 93 points. Though that would be good for all of 5th in the Central, they sit comfortably in the playoff picture (seriously, is there any doubt that the Central Division is the toughest in all of hockey?). They have no chance of catching the Ducks for first in the division, but they are clinging to a two point lead over the Calgary Flames for home ice during the first round of the playoffs.
The Canucks are led by the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik. They have 67 and 66 points, respectively. They may not put up quite the numbers they used to in their prime, but even at 34 years old the two of them remain the heart and soul of the team. Radim Vrbata leads the team in goals with 30. Interestingly, no other Canuck has over 17 goals, but ten have at least ten.
Look for Jacob Markstrom to get the start tonight. Ryan Miller is still out with a sprained knee and Eddie Lack started last night against the Blues. Markstrom is a career backup with a .896 save percentage and a 3.18 GAA in 50 games over the past 7 seasons.
Vancouver is in control of their own playoff destiny, and expect them to lay down. Home-ice advantage is a nice thing to have in the first round, and they don’t want to lose it down the stretch.
The Predators are also 6-3-1 in their last 10. Nashville is in the driver’s seat for first place in the Central Division with 102 points, but St. Louis is nipping at their heels, three points back and a game in hand. There are five games remaining in the season and every point counts (unlike the other 77 games, where only some of the points counted apparently). Nashville is in control of its own destiny when it comes to winning the first conference title in franchise history, so we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out over the last few games of the regular season.
Mike Ribeiro has the team lead with 60 points, but is being chased by a resurgent Filip Forsberg who finally woke up from his slump earlier this month. He has 59 points on the year and needs to push hard these next few games to cement his claim on the Calder Trophy. He’s also tied for the Predators lead in goals with Craig Smith with 23. James Neal is right behind them with 22 goals. The Predators have four players with at least 20 goals this season (Colin Wilson being the other) and 8 players who have at least 15.
It’s almost like Josi took his snub from the All-Star game personally and went out to prove to the world that he belongs in the discussion of the NHL elite. Whatever the reason, the Predators have been the beneficiaries. It’s unlikely that anyone is going to overlook him ever again.
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Josi is going to be the go-to defender again tonight as Weber is still out with a lower body injury.
Quick stick-tap to Pekka Rinne. He was chosen today as the Predators’ nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy. The award is handed out each year to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” Predators fans and those who have him in their fantasy hockey leagues (me) are hoping he dedicates himself to a couple of shutouts down the stretch as well.
The Predators need to finish March strong. They don’t play another game until Saturday (!), so they need to leave it all out on the ice tonight and pick up two points by any means possible. The playoffs are just over two weeks away and there’s no room to falter now. They have five games left in the season, three of them at home. Now would be a great time to drive home the point that no team is going to come into Bridgestone Arena and leave with an easy victory.