The Nashville Predators (27-16-6) awake this morning in Vancouver ready to have a showdown with the Canucks (30-10-9) tonight at the Rogers Arena at 9 p.m. Central.
The Preds and Canucks have not met this year. Last season the teams split the series, each winning a game at home and on the road. The Preds are 5-5 at the Rogers Arena in the last five years going 1-1 there each year.
This will be the first meeting for Dan Hamhuis and Shane O'Brien against their former teams. It is also a home game of sorts for Shea Weber, Cody Franson and several other Predators who hail from Western Canada.
The Predators are 10-3 in the last 13 games including winning seven of ten on the row. Monday's game against Calgary was the first time that the Preds had been held to less than two goals since December 26. The Predators are 3-2 on the current road trip that is on the tenth and final day. Vancouver is 4-2-4 in their last ten games.
Tonight's contest will feature two of the best goalies in the Western Conference. Pekka Rinne (17-12-4) is second in the NHL in GAA (2.11) as well as save percentage (.928). Roberto Luongo (22-8-7, 2.31, .923) has not been beaten in regulation since December 5 and is 11-0-5 during that run.
While Shea Weber leads the Preds offense with 29 points, the Canucks have four players with more than 30 points including the twins Henrik (61) and Daniel (63) Sedin. Ryan Kesler is tied for the team lead in goals at 27 with Daniel.
Vancouver is averaging 3.3 goals a game while the Preds average 2.6. Both teams allow 2.3 goals to their opponents. Vancouver is second (23.9%) in the league on the power play while the Preds are 27th (14.2%). On the penalty kill the Preds are fourth (84.9%) and the Canucks are seventh (83.9%).
A win tonight is not a make or break situation for either team but would be a nice send off heading into the long weekend. For the Canucks, it would place them in a tie with Philadelphia for the most points in the league. A win for the Preds would cap off a successful road trip and potentially put them within two points of the Central Division leading Detroit Red Wings.
After the game, Shea Weber will make a bee-line to Raleigh for this weekend's All-Star festivities while the rest of the Predators will scatter in every direction before reconvening in Nashville for a Monday afternoon practice.
Other Predator previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, Chris Burton, The Tennessean, David Boclair, and Predators.com.
Previews from Vancouver can be found at The Province, Vancouver Sun, Nucks Misconduct, Kurtenblog, The Canucks Way, and Canucks Hockey Blog.
Ryan Porth will features the Preds-Nucks match-up as his game of the week.
I was co-host on Ryan Porth's RLD Hockey Radio yesterday with Craig Custance of the Sporting News. It was a great half hour with a wide range of topics from throughout the NHL. The show ended with Ryan and doing our own draft of all-stars. I'll put my starting line-up of Ovechkin, Toews, Kane, Lidstrom, Byfuglien and Thomas against anyone else s' anytime.
In Pred Nation...
Chris Burton has a level-headed analysis of the "Shea Weber is leaving" rumors that always pop up when the Preds head to Canada. Here is the original Ed Wiles story from The Province that inspired Chris' piece. Robby at Hockey Night in Nashville also comments on the story.
Josh Cooper writes about the new SOB and his return to Vancouver. Josh had notes this morning including Marik Svatos having knee surgery. Who saw that coming?
Ryan Porth and Jeremy Gover will be guests on Paul McCann's SlapShot Radio tonight at 6 p.m. XM Home Ice's Mike Ross will also be featured.
Section 303 has news of Preds prospect Anthony Bitetto being named the Hockey East Rookie of the Week.
Dirk Hoag let's us know that Colin Wilson's slick goal against Colorado made the week's top ten as it should have.
Puck Report marks the ten year anniversary of Steve Sullivan's famous fan taunting episode.
W. Brett Wilson has an updated website that says that he is "close to the goal line" on becoming a Predator owner.
The weekly Milwaukee update is up at Predators.com. The Ads are second in the AHL West which is as tightly bunched as the NHL West.
Around the NHL...
Wayne Gretzky hits the big 50 today and Chris Johnston looks at his career. Amazingly, only one of his records has been broken since his retirement in 1999.
It is now official that Evgini Malkin is out of the All-Star game. Others that have pulled out include Sidney Crosby, Ales Hemsky, Jarome Iginla, Tobias Enstrom, and Jordan Eberle. Martin Havlat was added to the squad on Tuesday. A leak late yesterday also indicated that Keith Yandle will also join the team.
Team Dater and Team Russo square off in their own all-star fantasy draft.
Adrian Dater is almost giddy with the return of Peter Forsberg. Here is the latest video from Denver. Dater also plays out all the scenarios of what could happen in the coming weeks.
Justin Bourne looks at fighters versus hitters in the current NHL.
Darren Eliot looks at the neutral zone "sludge" as the league slips back toward the pre-lockout slow down in the center ice area.
Ryan Porth takes a look at the Calder race that has a crop of quality candidates.
Nick Cotsonika takes a look at rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky who is 20-6-3 and has backstopping the Flyers to the most points in the league this year.
This is an odd story where former prospect Jason Bailey is suing the Anaheim Ducks for anti-Semitic slurs.
Intent to Blow has the true story of why Evgeni Nabokov refuses to report to the Islanders.
Odds and Ends...
Here's an eyewitness report and video of the accident at Mavericks on Saturday. Jacob Trette is now alert and recovering.
The Oscar nominations are out and the top ten is an impressive bunch. I really liked six of them and want to see the other four.
Google and Apple are kicking Blackberry's butt. I really hate it for Jim Balsillie... not! It would not have been pretty had he gained control of the Coyotes, moved them to Hamilton, and then ran out of money.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass