The Nashville Predators (23-27-8) beat the big blizzard of 2010 in to the New York City area and will play the Islanders (31-22-4) tonight in the first game of a three game in four night swing through the big apple.
The Predators have been struggling lately going 2-5-1 in their last nine games. A loss tonight, combined with a Detroit win in St. Louis, could leave them close to being bounced out of the top eight in the Western Conference.
The Islanders have lost seven in a row and appear to have lost the early season confidence that had kept them in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race for most of the season.
The two teams have not met on the Island since December 16, 2006 when the Predators won 1-0. Last season, in Nashville, the Preds won 1-0 in a Pekka Rinne shutout on December 20.
Both teams made roster moves to prepare for tonight's match. The Preds recalled Colin Wilson to replace the ailing Marcel Goc. They also recalled Nolan Yonkman as it appears Dan Hamhuis' wife if on the verge of giving birth.
The Isles have recalled Matt Martin and Jesse Joensuu from Bridgeport. It will be Martin's NHL debut and Joensuu's second recall of the season.
Pekka Rinne (20-11-3, 2.77, .903) will start in net for the Preds while the Isles will go with Marty Biron (2-11-2, 3.22) in goal.
Predator's Keys To The Game
Road Magic Reborn...
The Predators have played some of their best hockey this season on the road and are 15-11-2 away from the Sommet Center. With roster moves, an approaching show storm, and trade rumors flying, the team needs to close ranks and play with the "us against the world" mentality that they have been known for in the past.
Saturday's loss to San Jose was one of the toughest of the season, losing a lead four times and then getting beat by Team Canada's first line in the final minutes of the game. The Preds never gave up and played hard to the final horn. They need the same intensity tonight from the opening puck drop.
Special Teams a Key...
For one of the few times this season the Preds are actually ranked higher than their opponent on the power play, penalty kill and goals per game.
The power play has gone 4-8 in the last two games and needs to get on the board again tonight. The penalty kill has continued their poor run (killing 19 of 28) in their last seven games. If they ever wanted to get well it would be against the 28th ranked team in the NHL.
Return of Colin Wilson...
The long awaited return of Colin Wilson occurs tonight and hopefully, we will see the player that we Pred fans have been dreaming of since he was signed last Spring. All reports are that his groin injury has healed and that he is playing pain free for the first time in several years.
After playing ten games with the Predators in October and going on inured reserve, he has played in Milwaukee since late November and has 12 goals and 17 assists in 35 games. In his last 17 games he has picked up 24 points so this will be a good test to see if he can carry that success to the NHL level.
Note on Mark Willoughby...
Our own Mark Willoughby of The View From 111 is featured in the Islander's Game Day Program in an article by Dee Karl, The Seventh Woman.
The Preds will head to Manhattan and play the Rangers tomorrow night.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass