The Nashville Predators (24-14-3) will host the Anaheim Ducks (16-17-7) in the first game of a four game home stand that will end next Saturday, just as it starts, playing the Ducks, once again.
In a very strange quirk in this Olympic year, the Ducks will play the Preds in Nashville on consecutive Saturdays and then travel to Chicago both weeks to play the Blackhawks on Sunday night. The really odd part of the schedule is that they travel back to Anaheim for home games on Tuesday and Thursday in between.
This will be the second meeting of the year for the Preds and Ducks and the first in Nashville. On November 5th the teams met in Anaheim and the Ducks beat the Preds 4-0 when they scored three goals late in the game. It was one of only two losses for the Preds during an 11-2-0 run between October 28 and November 27.
Both teams have had injuries to key players. The Preds will be without Marty Erat, Jordin Tootoo and Jerred Smithson. The Ducks are missing Teemu Selanee, Joffrey Lupul, and possibly Ryan Getzlaf, who will be a game time decision due to a deep cut to his right leg.
Pekka Rinne (15-7-2, 2.81, .904) will be in goal for the Predators and Jonas Hiller (12-11-2, 2.95, .911) is probable for the Ducks. With another game tomorrow against the Blackhawks, it is possible that J.S. Giguere (4-6-5, 2.93, .904) could start for the Ducks.
Pred's Keys to the Game
Break the "Curse" of the Third Jerseys...
The Predators are 1-3-1 planing in their new third jerseys and are 1-2-1 in Saturday night games since the new sweaters were rolled out. I don't think anyone feels that the jerseys have any type of "curse" attached to them, but playing poorly on Saturday nights is not a healthy situation for a team struggling to make an attendance goal of 14,000 per game.
Play a Full Sixty Minutes...
The Predators need to come out strong early and establish the tempo of the game against a very physical Anaheim team. After skating hard against Columbus for sixty plus minutes on Thursday night, the Preds do not need a letdown against a team that is better than their record.
The two teams are almost identical in goals per game (Ana 2.8 vs Preds 2.8) and shots per game (Ana 29.7 vs Preds 29.8). The big difference has been in goals allowed where the Preds have allowed 2.85 to the Ducks 3.12. The Preds simply do not need to to overlook the Ducks, because this is an important game they should win in front of the home crowd on a Saturday night.
Play with Discipline...
The Ducks are sixth in the league in number of penalty minutes (15.2) while the Preds have the fewest minutes per game in the league (9.4). The Ducks also have the third best power play in the league (21.6%) and try to play a chippy game to draw their opponents into committing mistakes.
The Preds are better at even strength (1.04 ratio) than the Ducks (.92) so they need to play a clean game and avoid giving the Ducks man advantage opportunities.
The Predators did not allow a power play goal for the first time in eleven games against Columbus on Thursday but remain ranked 25th (75.7%) in the league on the penalty kill. Against a top man advantage team like the Ducks, it is imperative for the Preds to not commit needless penalties or get baited into them by the Ducks.
The Predators will play Calgary on Tuesday and Carolina on Thursday before playing the Ducks again next Saturday to close out the home stand. The Preds only have two more home games in January and five more before the Olympic break after this four game run.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass