The Nashville Predators (23-13-6) take their current six game win streak into South Florida to meet the Panthers (19-20-2) at the Bank Atlantic Center at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
This is a classic "trap game" for the Predators who can not afford to stumble against a weaker team from the Eastern Conference. With a win tonight, only Pittsburgh (12) and Vancouver (8) would have longer winning streaks this season.
Coach Barry Trotz is well aware of the "trap" nature of this match, "The Florida game is real big. They play honest hockey. They are really on the puck hard, they have great effort, and great goaltending with Tomas Vokoun. They are a dangerous team."
The two teams met on December 11th at the Bridgestone Arena and Anders Lindback shut out the Panthers 3-0. The Preds' defense worked especially hard down the stretch in that game to give Lindback his first NHL shutout when he only faced 22 shots.
You would think that the Preds would go with Pekka Rinne (13-10-4, 2.11, .928) in goal but there is an outside chance that Lindback (10-3-2, 2.36, .922) could return since he had success previously. Likewise, ex-Pred Tomas Vokoun (16-15-1, 2.56, .922) has gotten the bulk of the starts for the Panthers but back-up Scott Clemmensen (3-5-1, 9.21, .921) has had solid starts recently.
Update from @davidlasseter: looks like Clemmensen tonight in goal tonight. He's been pretty darn good this year.
The Predators' tandem of Rinne and Lindback have risen to second in the league in goals allowed per game at 2.29, trailing only Boston at 2.10.
According to reports yesterday, Marty Erat will not travel to Florida but could be close to playing this weekend. None of the other injured Predators are close to a return.
The Predators enter the game tonight in fourth place in the Western Conference with 52 points. They need a win tonight to stay ahead of the pack that has eight teams within six points of Nashville.
The Preds will return home after the game and play a back to back, home and away match with Chicago on Saturday and Sunday before heading west for five more road games to finish up the pre-all-star game slate. Twenty-one of the last 32 Preds games will be on home ice.
Other pre-game stories come from Amanda DiPaolo, Chris Burton, The Tennessean, Hockey Night in Nashville, and Predators.com.
From South Florida, game previews come from The Sun Sentinel, The Rat Trick, The Miami Herald, On Frozen Pond, and Litter Box Cats.
In Pred Nation...
Kevin Allen talked to David Poile about Sergei Kostitsyn and his breakout year in Nashville.
Bryan Mullen discusses David Legwand's offensiveness since his return from injury.
Jeremy Gover analyzes the Predators tough defensive efforts this season at Section 303.
Jim Diamond previews the college games between University of Alabama-Huntsville and Merrimack College set for the Bridgestone Arena on Friday night and Saturday afternoon before the Predators game.
James Mirtle had his mid-season look at the NHL's top defensive defensemen. Guess which three teams have two each in the top ten.
Paul McCann puts the wrap on the Wild game and has a new edition of SlapShot Radio up on podcast.
The Predators announced that Fifth Third Bank has become the official bank of the Preds in a release yesterday.
Puck and Punk has positive things to say about a couple of NHL Guardians after panning the first few.
Dirk Hoag found a translatable article that indicates that former Pred (x2) Jonas Andersson is headed back to the KHL.
Around the NHL...
The Penguins made their first comment on Sidney Crosby prior to last night's 5-2 win over the Habs and he is not symptom-free and there is no timetable for a return. Bobby Ryan had a hat trick and an assist as the Ducks beat the Blues 7-4. The Avs took the night off, losing 4-0 to Chicago.
There has been no let up in All-Star game criticism. Matt Reitz joins the fray with a few pertinent points. Matt also analyzes the standing for special teams in the NHL. The Preds are about middle of the pack in spite of being third in the league on the PK.
Another shoot out and another bunch of whiners. This time, the Islanders call this move by Mason Raymond a "showoff" move. Once again, had the goalie done his job, it wouldn't be an issue.
Chris Johnson takes a look inside the NHL "war room" and describes the action.
Kevin Allen has an interesting list of first half awards that goes well past the usual suspects.
Patrick Hoffman makes the case for John Tortorella being considered for the Jack Adams this year.
Interesting note on the All-Star game from @cotsonika: NHL approached Zetterberg about ASG. He has had a sore back lately and been ambivalent about the game before. League honored his feelings.
Eklund takes a look at the pros and cons of killing the All-Star game.
Puck Daddy has each team's biggest disappointment at mid-season. He is on target with the Predators' choice.
Gary Bettman spoke his mind at a recent pit stop in San Jose. Here is what he had to say.
Steve Lapore has the numbers for the Versus games from December. He also has the most/least watched games of the first half. One look at the numbers and you see why NBC chooses the games they do for Sunday afternoons.
Odds and Ends...
More revelations in the Jenn Sterger-Brett Farve matter indicates that Sterger called out NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last month pointing out that she didn't think he would do anything and she was right.
This is great news. The old Polk Theater in my hometown of Columbia may be resurrected as an arts center.
Finally, this sounds like something that Dwight Schrute dreamed up. The State of Tennessee is having a conference promoting agritourism.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass