In a rematch of last season’s Western Conference Final, the Nashville Predators will continue their California road trip against the Anaheim Ducks.
Coming off a 4-1 setback against San Jose on Wednesday night, the Nashville Predators hope to end their current two-game losing streak against a familiar Pacific Division foe in Anaheim.
The offensive end of the ice has been a real struggle for the Predators of late. Besides the usual candidates in Filip Forsberg, Roman Josi and Viktor Arvidsson, it has been slow-going for the defending Western Conference champs. Head coach Peter Laviolette has juggled his lines with regularity looking to ignite a Predators attack that has only tallied 28 goals through 12 games – ranking 30th of 31 teams.
Dissecting the Ducks
Same Ducks, different year. A list of usual suspects don the orange and black for Anaheim, who dropped a 3-1 decision to the Maple Leafs on Wednesday night. However, a few key contributors are expected to be out of the lineup due to injury. Ryan Getzlaf was placed on IR Wednesday after taking a puck to the face and perhaps the Ducks’ best defenseman Cam Fowler is out for the foreseeable future with a knee injury.
The names to watch for Anaheim hasn’t changed in quite some time. Corey Perry is still a top winger in the league and he will look to pick up the slack of his missing teammates. Andrew Cogliano leads the team in points with nine, while Ondrej Kase has been a pleasant surprise with seven.
After a couple of years in a timeshare with Frederik Andersen, John Gibson is finally the No. 1 netminder in Anaheim. In his first full year as the clear starter, Gibson has been so-so to begin the season. His 2.83 GAA is a career-high, but there is still a lot of hockey left. Retribution for last season’s exit from the playoffs should be the motivating factor for Gibson tonight.
Predators hoping to return to form
The Honda Center has been kind to the Predators over the past few years. Some of the biggest wins in franchise history took place on the Ducks home ice. Hopefully that instills some confidence into a Predators squad that desperately needs it.
It’s not all bad for Nashville though. Forsberg has been explosive and has essentially carried the team offensively through the first 12 games. The penalty kill has been solid at 83.6 percent – which is good because no one takes more penalties than Nashville. The power play has also been effective (23.1 percent), although it has not been nearly as potent on the road.
The biggest reason for optimism is the play of birthday boy Pekka Rinne. I was one of No. 35’s biggest skeptics to start the year and I have been pleasantly surprised with his play thus far. Rinne ranks in top-10 in GAA (2.10) and save percentage (.931). Nothing that has happened this season is Rinne’s fault and the Predators need to capitalize on his early success with some wins.
The line-up has gone through quite the blender…
Irwin-Weber or Girard-Bitetto
Three keys to the game
The Nashville Predators have to start playing like a team that is currently dead last in the Central Division standings. While maybe now is not the time to panic, there has to be some urgency and realization that the product they have put on the ice in recent games is not good enough.
Take advantage of an injured team
The Ducks are a very good team but they’re currently missing their top two centers. Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler are both out for extended periods of time with a face and lower body injury, respectively. Not only that but Cam Fowler is also still on the IR. Maybe beating up on an injured team is exactly what the Predators need to regain their confidence? There will be no exuse if the Predators lose though.
Not that I think Calle Jarnkrok and Colton Sissons have been awful, but Nashville needs more production. It would be nice to see some scrappy Austin Watson goals or see Mattias Ekholm carry the puck in deep and create prime scoring chances. I am sure Kevin Fiala would love to get the monkey off his back as well. At this point, I don’t care where the goals come from, I just want to see a few more.
Follow the game
Television coverage will start at 8:30 p.m. CST on Fox Sports Tennessee with Predators Live! Pregame. Puck drop is 9 p.m. CST. Willy Daunic and Chris Mason will provide play-by-play and analysis, while Pete Weber and Hal Gill will handle radio coverage on 102.5 The Game on the Nashville Predators Sports Network.