Thursday, October 20, 2011

Preds at Canucks: Which Team Has the Hangover?

It is hard to tell which of the two teams set to meet tonight at Rogers Arena is coming off a Stanley Cup playoff hangover. The Nashville Predators have been inconsistent and have been all over the place accumulating five points with a 2-2-1 record. The Vancouver Canucks have played one more game and also have five points with a 2-3-1 record.

The Predators appeared to have reached rock bottom (so far) in Edmonton on Monday night when they only managed twelve shots in a 3-1 loss to the Oilers. More than one player described the effort as "embarrassing."

The Canucks' early season malaise continued on Tuesday when they were victimized by Henrik Lundqvist's 40 save performance in a 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers.

Ryan Kesler's much-heralded return after off-season hip surgery was notable in that he was able to log almost 20 minutes of ice time but still did not appear to be the difference-maker that the Canucks need him to be.

Roberto Luongo (1-2-1, 3.70, .856) was jeered by the home crowd on Tuesday and has been sub par in his four games. Alain Vigneault indicated that Luongo would return to the net tonight against the Preds.

The Predators are also looking for answers on offense and Barry Trotz indicated that Niclas Bergfors would be inserted into the lineup tonight in order to produce a different look. There was no word who would move to the press box.

The Predators' main goal tonight will be to produce more shots on net as they are averaging only 23 shots per game while allowing almost 33. They have produced less than 10 shots in five on five play in two games, so far, including the last one.

David Legwand lost his NHL lead in points on Monday but still heads the Preds with two goals and six assists. For Vancouver, the Sedin twins each have two goals and five assists.

It appears obvious that Pekka Rinne (2-2-1, 2.37, .926) will be back in net for the Predators since he has been the team MVP through five games just as he was all last season.

The Preds and Canucks are known for low scoring, close games. That really came to a head in last year's second round series when the teams battled for six games and Nashville won the respect of many Vancouver fans for their gutsy, competitive, never-say-die play.

Since the lockout, the Preds and Canucks have gone 1-1 annually at Rogers Arena. Last year, during the regular season, the teams also split in Nashville.

In the postseason series, the Preds won two of three in Vancouver, while the Canucks won all three games in Nashville.

The Predators' two wins in Vancouver during the playoffs were dramatic. In game two, Matt Halischuk scored at 14:51 in double overtime of game two after the Preds had no-showed in the series opener.

In game five, the Preds were down 4-1 in the series, after losing two at home, and beat the Canucks to avoid elimination behind David Legwand's two early goals and Joel Ward's key third period goal.

Puck drop tonight should be shortly after 9 p.m. and the game will be televised on SportsSouth.

More Later...

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