The Nashville Predators spent the night in the homeland for 13 of the 24 Predators listed on the current roster. Regardless of where they hail in Canada, they all grew up on heavy doses of Toronto Maple Leaf's hockey. They were either fans of the team or bitter enemies. The is no middle ground.
All that aside, this is a very important game for both the Preds (7-5-3) and the Leafs (5-8-3). The Predators appear to have snapped back to reality and have played well, winning their last two games in shootout against divisional rivals.
The Leafs started the season going 4-0-1 and were the talk of the Canadian media. Since then they have gone 1-8-2 and have lost eight in a row. GM Brian Burke has given coach Ron Wilson a vote of confidence in recent days that has a bit of a hollow ring to it.
The Preds and Leafs met last season in a rare visit to Nashville by Toronto and the Leafs beat the Preds 4-3 for their only win ever in the Music City. The Preds hold the all time series edge 6-4-(1)-0 and are 4-3-(1)-0 in Toronto.
The Predators are as healthy as they have been since opening night. Only Matthew Lombardi remains on injured reserve and he is at least a month away from a return from his concussion and is in fact at home in Montreal.
The Leafs are without Captain Dion Phaneuf (leg laceration) and Colby Armstrong ( broken finger). The Leafs recalled prospect Nazem Kadri before their last game with great media fanfare, but he had only one shot in 18:05 minutes of play against Vancouver on Saturday.
Statistically, the Preds out score the Leafs 2.40 to 2.18 while their goals against are similar with the Leafs at 2.81 to the Preds 2.87. In five on five play, the teams both have a meager .93 ratio.
On special teams, The Preds 12.1% on the power play barely eclipses the Leaf's 11.8%. On the PK, Nashville's 81.8% is quite a bit better than the Leaf's 74.6%.
Pekka Rinne (4-4-2, .85, .910) will start for the Predators while it appears that Jean-Sebastion Giguere (4-5-2, 2.62, .900) will go for the Leafs.
In summary, the two teams look similar on paper and it should be a close contest. The Predators have had a penchant for one goal games so there is no reason to suspect that tonight's contest will be any different. With the Preds looking for a least a point on the road, an overtime game or a shootout is also a strong possibility.
Other previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, Chris Burton, and The Tennessean.
For the Toronto side of the story, see the Globe and Mail, The Toronto Sun, Pension Plan Puppets, The National Post, Maple Leafs Hot Stove, and Eat, Sleep, Leafs.
Just to set the stage further, here is a brief history of the almost 100 year old Toronto Maple Leaf franchise from Helium.
POTG Radio Podcast...
Last night's POTG Radio Podcast had the feel of a three way virtual Tweet-Up with Rick Stephens from All Habs and Patty Jasper of Let's Go Canes providing thoughts and analysis from two additional hockey markets.
Rick and I discussed some of the differences between the high profile and competitive Montreal media market and the blogger friendly Nashville situation. Rick gave good insight into the Habs season so far with the team being led by Cary Price and we also discussed the potential long term injury to Andrei Markov.
Patty joined in the conversation and gave us the lowdown on what we should expect during our tip to Raleigh this weekend both on and off the ice. It appears that there should be fine Southern hospitality with food and drink for visitors in the tailgating area.
As a group, we also discussed the All-Star game in Raleigh and the changes in format.
We would invite you to listen with the player below or download on iTunes.
I will be a co-host on Ryan Porth's RLD Hockey Talk today at noon Central. Ryan's guests will be at 1 PM ET will feature Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild and Dave Lozo from the NHL. This promises to be a lively show that should be a pleasant distraction in the middle of the work day.
In Preds Nation...
Barry Trotz was on XM's The Power Play from Wayne Gretzky's in Toronto yesterday afternoon. This morning, Pete Weber and Tom Callahan will join Mike Ross in studio at XM Home Ice in downtown Toronto.
Jim Diamond has a heartwarming post about Joel Ward, Nick Spaling, and Cal O'Reilly playing in front of their "home" crowd tonight in Toronto.
James Mirtle is one of the few Toronto writers who has come to Nashville and experienced Predator hockey with an open mind. He has a nice piece comparing the Preds to the Leafs which raised a few typical remarks in the comments section. Thanks to James for taking the time to learn about the Preds first hand.
Our friend, Michael Langlois, of Vintage Leaf Memories, is another enlightened Torontonian who has glowing things to say about the Predators and their visit to the GTA.
Josh Cooper has the latest update on Matthew Lombardi. Despite Trot's optimistic tone, he's still a month away. Josh also has a post this morning with Pekka Rinne discussing some angle shots that he has let in lately.
David Boclair has a post where Trotz calls for more scoring from the forwards after the defense provided all three goals in the last contest.
Colin Wilson has a few words about the Hawks and Canada at his weekly blog. Blake Geoffrion explains that he is injured in his blog.
Chris Burton breaks down Shane O'Brien's gift of a goal from Saturday night.
Amanda DiPaolo has here weekly Central Division Shakedown feature with a look at the other four teams in the division.
Paul McCann has a roundup of thoughts at Hockey Buzz.
I missed this one yesterday but it is a must read if you haven't seen it. David Boclair and J.R. Lind look at what Jeff Cogen has done to transform the Preds into a ticket selling machine.
It appears that the Leafs are pulling out all the stops for tonight's game. This came yesterday from @reporterchris: Ron Wilson says he wants Dion Phaneuf and @armdog in the #leafs dressing room before tomorrow's game. Says their presence is missed.
Predator prospect and Wisconsin co-captain, Craig Smith took out his frustration on a goal cage in last weekend's loss to North Dakota.
Paul Nicholson won the weekly prize from Rachel at What the Puck in her own Movember derby.
Around the NHL...
Big news yesterday was Scott Gordon being fired on Long Island. I don't think that losing ten in a row and scoring 14 goals in the process is entirely the coaches fault. There were high hopes early in the season but injuries and an overall lack of talent finally took their toll. Ryan Porth has a nice eulogy for Gordon who really had no chance to win.
There was fallout all day yesterday from the MC79 Hockey article about Colin Campbell's emails and the league responded with a very vanilla response. Colin Campbell wasn't concerned either. Puck Daddy has his response.
Chris Botta discusses the poor performance of Rick DiPietro and Garth Snow's denial that he could be sent to Bridgeport of the AHL.
Amanda Dipaolo has her early picks for the All-Star game from the Western Conference. Only thing missing are her "National Treasure" comments. It was on NHL.com's front page yesterday.
Michelle Kenneth has her Monday Musings and manages to bring in my near death experience at the hands of her friend Georges Laraque.
With All-Star voting in full swing, here's how a few NHL staffers voted.Down Goes Brown has do's and don'ts for new NHL call-ups.
In an exclusive story from Intent to Blow, Colin Campbell blasted blogger Tyler Dellow for the suggestion that he had any continuity in the way he handed out supplemental discipline. (Note: ITB has an uncanny way of having their parodies become fact.)
Odds and Ends...
An inmate in Florida claims he is being "tortured" by the jail not having a wide enough variety of movies. This guy is a real loser.
@stackiii found this weather gem for Star Wars fans. I guess they will have a weather channel in the future.
If you are in to watching some big wave surfing, the Reef Hawaiian Pro is going on this week with live video on the internet. It's a good thing to lose yourself in as the days grow shorter.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass