It seems fitting since it is Hockey Day in Canada and Hockey Weekend Across America that the non-traditional hockey market of Nashville would be converted to an open air ice rink with up to seven inches of snow and two inches of ice covering Middle Tennessee.
The Predators could tie their season high six game losing streak with a loss against the Thrashers. The Preds and their fans are hopeful that the streak will be broken and that they can return to the form that they showed when playing well earlier this year.
Tonight's game is a rare one against the Thrashers. However, as a wild card team from the Eastern Conference, the Preds will pay a return visit to Atlanta on March 9 and play the Birds at Phillips Arena. This is the twelfth all-time meeting between the two teams as Nashville holds a 5-4-2 advantage.
Pred fans will have the opportunity to see Russian super-star Ilya Kovalchuk who has 31 goals and 57 points so far this season. They will also get to see ex-Predator Rich Peverly who has found success after Atlanta picked him up on waivers. Peverly has 17 goals and 42 points this year.
Pekka Rinne (18-10-2, 2.81, .903) will start in net for the Predators while the red-hot Johan Hedberg (12-8-4, 2.48, .918) will start for Atlanta. This will be Hedberg's fourth straight start. In his last four games he has only allowed 1.5 goals per game and has stopped 116 of 122 shots.
Joel Ward will return to the ice after missing the last three games with an upper body injury. Andreas Thuresson, who was on an emergency recall, was returned to Milwaukee today. Marcel Goc remains sidelined for the Preds and Wade Belak is listed as doubtful.
Predators Keys To The Game
Avoid the Trap (Again)...
When you have lost five in a row it is difficult to label any game a trap but in looking at the schedule this one would have foot the bill. The Preds cannot have a let down from the intensity that they exhibited during the last two periods of the game against the Wings.
The "rivalry" between the Predators closest other NHL team has never been fully developed since the two teams went to separate conferences during the last era of expansion. It is ashamed that the two teams are not able to play six times a year like division rivals.
Take Back the Home Ice Advantage...
The Predators have not played well in front of the home crowd recently. Since December 26, the Preds are 2-4 at the Sommet Center. Before the recent losing streak, the Predators had a better road record than they did at home.
Predator fans have been supportive of the team and deserve to see a full sixty minutes of effort when they pay good money to come out and support the home team.
Desperate Effort Needed on Special Teams...
The Predators dismal special team play went further downhill in last night's game as they gave up two goals on four penalty kills officially and another goal three seconds after the power play expired. Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Klein were on the ice for the first three goals and did not play well on the PK.
The Power Play unit was much more aggressive, getting off twelve shots in four opportunities on the man advantage but still did not have anything to show for it.
If the special teams do not show a quick turnaround soon, the Predators hopes of a post season berth will appear smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass