The Nashville Predators (25-15-3) face the ultimate trap game tonight at the Sommet Center when they face the league worst Carolina Hurricanes (11-23-7).
The game with the Canes is wedged between a hard fought game with Calgary on Tuesday, who is one of the NHL's best teams, and the second meeting in a week with the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. Additionally, Carolina is an Eastern Conference team that is rarely faced and is missing several of their key players.
Carolina is 3-13-4 on the road this year (league worst) and 2-12-2 in back to back games of which this is one since they play Colorado at home tomorrow night. On the positive side, they are 4-5-1 in their last ten and won 2-1 in their last game out at MSG against the Rangers. They have also had four days off so they should be well rested.
If there was ever an opportunity for the Predators to take an opponent lightly, or not be fully engaged from the opening puck drop, this could be the game. If mediocre play led to a loss, this could be devastating to the team and fans.
Both teams are missing key players. The Preds continue to be without Marty Erat, Jerred Smithson and Jordin Tootoo. Now they have added Joel Ward to the list of walking wounded and have brought Ben Guite in to replace his spot in the lineup.
Carolina will be without Joe Corvo, Erik Cole, Sergei Samsonov, Ex Pred Scott Walker, and Chad Larose. They have lost 152 man-days to injuries compared to the Pred's 78. They will also be without Eric Staal who will be attending his sister-in-law's funeral.
Pekka Rinne (16-7-2, 2.74, .906) will continue the alternate game rotation in net for the Preds while Cam Ward (6-14-5, 3.02, .901) will be in goal for the Hurricanes.
Pred's Keys to the Game
Give 100% from the Opening Puck Drop...
If there was ever a time to demoralize an oppenent by outplaying them from the start, this is the time. With a depleted line up, the Canes are behind the eight ball and don't need the Preds to give them any hope that they can compete at the beginning of the game. While not admitting it, I am sure in the back of a few players minds, they have written off the season so there's no reason to help them think otherwise by the Preds showing up with half-hearted play at the start of the game.
An early goal or two (or three, four or five) could do wonders for the Preds and the home crowd who haven't had a frosty in a while.
Differentiate Themselves on the Special Teams...
The Predators have been horrible in special team play this year, even worse than the Canes. The canes are 26th(15.6%) on the power play while the Preds are 28th (15.3%). The same applies on the penalty kill 26th (77.8%) to 28th (76.6%).
The Preds did score on the power play against Calgary and have gone three games at 100% on the PK (5-5) so they need to continue this trend against an inferior opponent.
Pekka Needs to be Last Year's Version of Pekka...
Pekka Rinne has had a good year by most standards but still has not reached the dominating level that we saw last year on a consistent basis. With the Olympic choice out of the picture it is time for Pekka to get back to where he played down the stretch last season.
He has not played poorly but has not been the imposing figure that we saw before. Miikka Kiprusoff was here on Tuesday and opponents go into the game knowing that they have their work cut out for them when he is in net. They squeeze the stick harder and try to be a little more perfect. We saw some of that against Pekka last year and we need to see it again as the season progresses.
The Preds close out the homestand against the Ducks on Saturday and then head out for a three game swing in Western Canada starting in Vancouver on Monday.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass