Coming off a total meltdown in disciplined play on Saturday night the Nashville Predators rose from the dead and played a near perfect game shutting out the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 on Monday night at HSBC arena.
Before the game I had emailed back and forth with friend and Sabre fan Neil Bristow pointing out that it has been impossible to tell which Predator team will show up on any given night. A case on point, in a true Jekyll and Hyde fashion the Preds went from playing with zero discipline Saturday night, taking 16 penalties and giving up five power play goals to the Wild at home, to playing an almost flawless game on the road against the Sabres 48 hours later. Sometimes it is hard to believe it is the same team from night to night.
An article in the Tennessean on Sunday suggested too much coffee and Red Bull on Saturday for the pre-game meal. If that was the case then the team must have switched to some calming herbal tea tonight. Whatever the case, they need to find the right formula and stick to it.
Predator back-up goalkeeper Pekka Rinne was undoubtedly the shining first star for the Predators tonight. Having played little recently before his win in Atlanta on Friday night, Rinne played his best game as a Predator shutting down the Buffalo snipers stopping all thirty shots thrown at him. In a fast paced up and down the ice game, Rinne was on his game for the full sixty minutes making several highlight reel saves along the way.
Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller was equally sharp for the better part of the game. It was not until the 8:07 mark of the third period when Jason Arnott flipped the puck off of Miller’s pads that either team found the net. Two and a half minutes later on an even more freakish play both Miller and J P Dumont went sprawling on the ice after a loose puck and Dumont sprawled just a hair quicker and pushed the puck over the thin red line for the goal. After the Predators went up 2-0 Pekka Rinne fought hard for the remainder of the game to preserve his first NHL shutout.
So what’s next for the Jekyll and Hyde Predators? They return home for a Thursday – Saturday set against the Avs and the Wild (what a weird schedule quirk – two Saturdays in a row at home). Barry Trotz needs to get out his chemistry set and settle on the right formula so that the right Predator team shows up every night. We have reached the point in the season where it is time to quit playing around and put a string of consistent games together to solidify our place in the top eight in the West.
Numminen! It was really good to see Teppo Numminen back on the ice after missing the last season with illness. It is always inspiring to see a good guy make a comeback after something like that. You know he really appreciates every game that he pulls the sweater over his pads.
Legwand Ties Mark By playing in Monday’s game first Predator draftee David Legwand tied Kimmo Timonen’s franchise record for the most games played as a Predator. His 573 games were slow coming due to a number of injuries over the years. I am sure there have been folks in the organization that have envisioned a day when Leggy would wear the captain’s C for the Preds but as the years pass by it seems less and less likely.
Jones – Hornqvist Watch After playing five games in Milwaukee, there appears no urgency for the return of Ryan Jones or Patrik Hornqvist to the Predators. Recent call up Antti Philstrom seems to be fitting in well with his role with the Preds and may be up for good. The Predators have had a philosophy, with few exceptions, of the road to Nashville starting in the AHL so this may be the road trip for the final grooming of Jones and Hornqvist who will undoubtedly be back in a Pred uniform before the season is over.
MIA Finally, has anyone seen Kevin Klein lately? After alternating games with Ville Koistinen for the first month of the season, he has not suited up since the November 8th game at Colorado. He was on the roster for the entire season last year and only played 13 games. The Preds would never send him to Milwaukee as he would be an immediate upgrade to a majority of the league’s defensive corps via the waiver wire. The poor guy really needs to see some game action soon.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass