The Nashville Predators (32-22-5) complete their three game swing through the Big Apple when they play the New Jersey Devils (36-20-3) tonight in the Pred's first trip to the Prudential Center.
This will be the second and final meeting of the year between the two teams. They first met on November 19 in a game that the Predators won 3-2 in a shootout in Nashville. Jason Arnott and Zach Parise each scored two goals in the first meeting. Marty Erat had the game winner in the shoot out.
The Devils will have a different look since the last meeting with last week's addition of Ilya Kovalchuk who has 31 goals and 29 assists but has yet to score with his new team since coming over from Atlanta last week.
Both teams have struggled recently. Before winning their last game against the Rangers on Wednesday, the Preds were just 2-6-2 in their last ten games.
The Devils have lost leads in their last two games against the Flyers, losing both ends of the home and away series, on the heels of losing the the Rangers last Saturday. The Devils have not lost four in a row this season. New Jersey have lost 11 of their last fifteen games.
Parise's streak of 187 games was broken on Wednesday night when he missed due to an upper body injury. He is expected to return tonight.
The Predators will be missing Marcel Goc and Jerred Smithson which will mean that Ryan Jones will be back in the lineup to replace Smithson in tonight's contest.
Pekka Rinne (20-11-4, 2.77, .903) will return to the Preds net after Dan Ellis (11-10-1, 2.59, .913) played well and won against the Rangers. Marty Brodeur (22-19-3, 2.28, .916) will start for the Devils.
Predator's Keys to the Game
Avoid Letting New Jersey Break Out of Their Funk...
The Devils are not hitting on all cylinders at this time and do not need any confidence boosters early in the game to get on a roll and get the crowd behind the team.
The Predators need to contain the Devils top two lines with emphasis on Parise and Kovalchuk. Parise scored both of the goals in the Devils last game against the Preds and Kovalchuk has not scored for the Devils and does not need to start a run now.
The Predators need to come out of the box skating full out and keep pressure on the Devils right from the beginning. If the Preds can out-skate the Devils in the first period and not fall behind, they will have a good chance of winning the game.
More Focus on Discipline...
The Preds did a better job of of containing the other team's power play against the Rangers but still gave up a goal on the penalty kill. The Preds have allowed six power plays in each of the last two games which is far more that the Preds can hope to contain with their 28th ranked penalty kill unit.
Put Trade Rumors Behind Them...
Today's pre-Olympic freeze deadline came and went with both Dan Hanhuis and Dan Ellis still with the Predators in spite of rumors that Hamhuis was somehow involved in a trade that have him changing dressing rooms mid-day and going to the Devils.
No matter what happens at the trade deadline, both player will be Preds for at least 17 more days so they need their full focus on helping the Predators win the next two games.
The Preds final game before the Olympic break will be Sunday at noon in Pittsburgh.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass