The Nashville Predators and the New York Islanders both entered Saturday Nights game in a slump. Both finished the game still mired in the same slump, the difference being the Predators had two more points as they continue their pursuit of a Western Conference playoff position. The Preds have only scored more than one goal once in the last five games but have five points to show for it. The Islanders have lost nine straight and managed only a point during that span.
Both goaltenders were sharp but Pekka Rinne was the star of the night stopping all 23 Islander shots for his third shutout in December and improving his record to 7-1 for the season. As well as the Predator defense played it was amazing that he was able to stay sharp as the defense did not allow many scoring opportunities all night. Joey MacDonald was also deserving of a W for the Isles but was a victim of a bad combination of a hot defense shutting down their limited offense.
Vern Fiddler was the Predators only scorer for the second game in a row. Playing on the third line with Rich Peverly and the demoted Mart Erat, his goal came early at 6:48 in the first. The Preds top line of Arnott, Dumont and Ward was snake-bit on nine shots as was Shea Weber who launched 5 bombs with nothing to show for it.
The Predators return to the ice Tuesday at Florida before taking Christmas Eve off and then regrouping for a tough three games in four nights stretch which includes Detroit at home and a blistering road trip to Edmonton and Colorado. Assuming Trotz continues to reward shutouts, it should be Pekka Rinne in goal on Tuesday and then Dan Ellis against the Wings to see if he can recreate last year’s playoff magic. Hopefully the Preds offense will give him more than a goal to work with against the Wings.
Eastern Conference Watch… I said before the season that the difference maker in the last few playoff positions in the West would be the records against the Eastern Conference. The Preds finished the night in 8th place buoyed by their 5-1-1 record vs the East where they have picked up 11 of their 35 points so far.
Arnott Makes 1000 … The Predators celebrated Jason Arnott’s 1000th NHL game on Saturday with a video salute right before Vern Fiddler’s goal. At Friday’s practice, Arnott’s hunting buddy Ryan Sutter had taken up a collection from team mates and purchased a 4 wheel drive golf cart looking ATV for Arnott’s hunting trips (that Suter always attends). It sounds like to me that Suter wanted one and used the occasion to get everyone else to help pay for it. I guess that sounds like a much better story for the wife too.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass