Tonight's game between the Nashville Predators (24-15-6) and the Phoenix Coyotes (23-14-9) will be a battle for fourth place in the tightly bunched Western Conference. Phoenix currently holds down the four spot with 55 points, but the Preds are one behind with 54.
It is always a great game when the Predators and Coyotes hook up as the two fan bases are connected by having suffered through similar ownership issues. The Preds are a strong franchise at this point and the Yotes are hoping to follow the Preds' lead under soon to new owner Matthew Hulsizer.
The Preds and Yotes have met twice this year. In their first meeting this year on November 3 in Phoenix, Ed Jovanovski's hat trick led the Coyotes to a 4-3 win, in a higher scoring contest than usual between the two teams.
Then on November 30, the Preds broke a four game losing streak by beating Phoenix 3-0 as Pekka Rinne got the shutout in a game that was not as pretty as it looked like on paper.
Both teams are coming off stinging losses. The Coyotes lost to San Jose 4-2 on Monday afternoon, snapping their four game win streak. The Predators are coming off a 6-3 loss to Chicago on Sunday.
Both teams have played well lately with Nashville going 7-3 in their last ten game and Phoenix going 6-2-2.
Pekka Rinne (14-11-4, 2.13, .927) will get the start for Nashville while it is not clear if the Coyotes will come back with Ilya Bryzgalov (17-9-6, 2.58, .918), who took the loss yesterday or go with Jason LaBarbera (6-5-3, 3.02, .914).
Shea Weber has a nine game point streak on the line after picking up an assist in Sunday's game and logging 29:40 minutes. Ryan Suter played 32:43 in Sunday's game, breaking his old franchise record for time on ice in a game which was 32:14.
The extraordinary minutes were due to an early injury to Francis Bouillon who returned to Nashville yesterday to have his upper body injury looked at by team physicians. The Preds are hopeful for a return later this week.
Shane O'Brien will be back in the line-up after serving a two game suspension for a high sticking violation against Florida.
Marek Svatos missed the last two games but flew to Phoenix yesterday. He will be a game time decision based on how he reacts in the morning skate today.
After the game, the Predators will travel to Colorado where they will play the Avalanche on Thursday.
Other previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, Chris Burton, David Boclair, Josh Cooper, and Predators.com.
For a look at the Coyote side of the game check out Arizona Vibe, Five for Howling, Coyotes Examiner, the Arizona Republic, and the Coyotes Aggregator.
I will be a guest host on Ryan Porth's RLD Hockey Radio today at Noon Central. Guest will include Tampa Bay Lightning play-by-play announcer Rick Peckham and Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period will talk about the Kings, Ducks and Sharks.
In Pred Nation...
Dirk Hoag has an excellent analysis of David Legwand's value to the Predators. He also has the audio of Peter Horachek on the Thom Abraham show from yesterday.
Admirals Roundtable claims Teemu Laakso is the Predators only choice to replace Francis Bouillon if he doesn't return quickly. Sounds good to me.
If you are in Milwaukee, the Admirals are giving away a pair of tickets to the Bears-Packers NFC Championship game at the Ad's game against San Antonio on Friday night.
Around the NHL...
The NHL Three Stars of the Week included Jussi Jokinen, Patrice Bergeron, and Ilya Bryzgalov.
Steve Lepore reports that the Comcast-NBC merger is likely to be approved today which could have a major effect on the NHL TV package in the states.
It looks like Sidney Crosby will be out until after the All-Star game. I'm sure the Pens won't take any chances on bringing him back too soon.
Last night, David Shoalts came up with another take saying that Crosby won't play in in the All-Star game in protest over the NHL not doing enough about head shots.
Even with Crosby and several Wings on the sidelines, tonight's Wings-Pens game will be a good one.
Ryan Porth looks at the top five trade targets at the deadline. I must say that this year's crop is underwhelming but I'm sure stupid trades will go on.
Try as they might, the Columbus Blue Jackets can't get anyone to take Mike Commodore, even at half price on waivers.
It's hard to believe that the Detroit Red Wings have gotten bit by the injury bug again this season.
Adam Proteau has the five worst free agent signings of 2008. Ouch! What were they smoking?
Rob Higgins has his second half fantasy values that includes Colin Wilson.
Pred killer Patrick Marleau played his 1,000th career game yesterday against Phoenix and celebrated with a goal. He is the first player to do so exclusively in a Sharks uniform.
Restaurateurs in St Louis are rejoicing as the Blues signed Kyle Wellwood as has been rumored for a while. Will someone steal him off waivers? We'll know about 11 a.m. today.
The CHL/NHL top prospects are in Toronto for skills competition today and a game tomorrow.
Odds and Ends...
Here is a great story from Florida Today about a friend who is one of the smartest people that I know. Dennis Chamberland is a NASA scientist that is headed to an undersea colony in a few years and this is his story.
Here is an interesting look at the Venice Beach skate bowl and the kids that skate there.
You can take a survey on Roller Derby with a chance to win one of ten prizes.