The Nashville Predators wrap up their brief road trip today in New York City. They Rangers will play host, and Nashville will try to make it three wins in a row.
After a disappointing start to the season, the Nashville Predators appear to have hit their stride. They started the season with back-to-back losses, but haven’t lost in regulation since. Having only played seven games total, Nashville currently sits with a 4-2-1 record. Likewise, that is good enough for third in the central division. The team has been clicking on all cylinders and have been exciting to watch.
Coming into today the Nashville Predators have won two in a row. Most recently, a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, sweeping the season series in the process. Although they have only won two straight, Nashville has gained at least a point in their last five. The one overtime loss came against Chicago, and on a questionable no call, no less. The point being, Nashville is hot right now and will look to continue their point streak later today. However, the same cannot be said for their opponent.
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The New York Rangers have had a pretty frustrating start to their season, to say the least. Where we’re at now, the Rangers are tied for second-to-last in the Eastern Conference. They might only be eight games into the season, but they have only secured one victory. To make matters even worse, they have lost five in a row, with the last two coming in overtime and a shootout, respectively. Despite all this, the Rangers are still a talented team, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The Rangers are led by their goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. He is widely regarded as one of the best net-minders the game has, but is off to a shaky start. The 35 year-old-goalie is 1-3-2 with a .905 save percentage and 3.15 GAA. Obviously, these are not the typical numbers you would expect to see from King Henrik. It is still early, remember; so take these numbers with a grain of salt.
Offensively, the leading point scorers for the Rangers are defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and first line winger Mats Zuccarello. Both of whom have tallied 7 points, by way of two goals and five assists. The leading goal scorer for New York is Mika Zibanejad who has five so far.
Other players of interest for the Rangers include Rick Nash. He is a dangerous left winger capable of scoring from anywhere on the ice. He hasn’t started the season off so great, but he is still a gifted athlete who will need to be tamed. The other player of interest is Jimmy Vesey. We all know the story behind Vesey, so I won’t go into that. As for him, he has yet to make a mark on the scoresheet this season, and you know he would love to turn his fortunes around against Nashville.
The Predators have had a tough go about it with injuries early on. As we all know, Ryan Ellis is expected out until at least Christmas. Roman Josi had to sit out a couple of games, and Yannick Weber has been out for a while, as well. Yesterday, Nashville finally got some good news on the injury front, as Weber was taken off of IR and practiced with the team. However, as Weber came off the IR, Nick Bonino was added to it. According to reports he is going to be out for a few weeks.
Nothing has been made official with the lineups for today’s game, but based off of the practice lines from yesterday it appears Nashville will go with a similar lineup from Thursday’s game:
Keep in mind that nothing is official yet, but it appears Weber will be in for Bitetto. Also, for the fourth straight game it looks like Sam Girard will be scratched. It’s difficult for us as fans, because he has the talent to be starting. There are long-term implications with how he is played, though. As much as I really want him to play, if the team is trying to limit his remaining seven games in the NHL. Maybe, strolling him out in Madison Square Garden is not the best option.
Keys to the Game
I am going to make it short and sweet here. There are two keys to this game if Nashville wants to win: Goaltending and Staying of the penalty kill.
Goaltending: Pekka Rinne has played some of the best hockey of his career lately. He is coming off a shutout against the Flyers, and has only allowed more than one goal once in his past four starts. Not only have the numbers been great for Pekka, but he looks extremely comfortable on the ice. Rinne appears to be having fun out there and it will be important for him to keep this up against a team that generates a ton of shots.
Stay off the Penalty Kill: The Nashville Predators special team units have been a strong point of their play, as of late. They are generating chances and killing off penalties with ease. However, despite all of this, Nashville needs to stop committing penalties. In their past three games Nashville has sent their PK unit on the ice 17 times. That is an absurd amount of time being spent on the penalty kill. Once again, the issue is not the PK units themselves, as they are doing great. In those 17 chances, the opposition has only scored once. What is hurting them is just the amount of time they spend down a man. It is difficult to score down one, and Nashville will need all the time on attack they can generate against Lundqvist.
Follow the Game
Today’s game is a matinee and pregame coverage will begin at 11:00 AM CT on Fox Sports Tennessee with Predators Live! The game will start at 11:30 AM CT and Willy Daunic and Terry Crisp will have the call on the TV broadcast. The radio coverage will broadcast from 102.5 The Game where Pete Weber and Hal Gill will handle all the action.