Tonight's game between the Nashville Predators (13-8-6) and the Florida Panthers (13-14-0) presents a dilemma for the recently red hot Preds. The Preds are coming off a huge win against long time rival Detroit and Florida is slipping in town from the lowly regarded South East Division where the Preds are 3-0-2 this year.
This is the type of game that the Preds have struggled with, especially when they don't jump out to an early lead and allow the other team to gain confidence. Florida is coming off a shutout by Tomas Vokoun against the Washington Capitals and have now won three in a row.
The Preds are 8-3-3 since November 7 and do not need to take the Panthers lightly. The Western Conference is jammed up with ten teams between 34 and 31 points. The Preds play four of their next five at home where they are 5-1-5.
Another huge crowd is expected for what has become a Saturday night tradition in Smashville. Here is an interesting tidbit from the Predators...
"Heading into Saturday’s game, Bridgestone Arena has been sold out four times through 11 home games. A sellout against the Panthers (in game 12) would tie the fastest to five sellouts in franchise history (attained in 1999-2000). The second fastest was 22 home games in 1998-99 and in 2000-01). The Preds’ four sellouts in the first nine home games of 2010-11 marked the fasted to four full houses in club history, trumping the previous record which was set in 1999-2000."
If you don't have tickets, there are less than 1000 left so you need to plan accordingly.
As for the game itself, this is the third year in a row that the Preds and Panthers have played home and away series. All time the Preds are 6-6-(3)-0 against the Panthers but have won four of five since 2007. The Preds have won every game at home against the Cats since October 27, 2000.
The goalie match up will be Tomas Vokoun (11-10-0, 2.45, .921) against Anders Lindback (5-1-2, 2.64, .919). It pits the first Pred goalie to supplant a starting goalie against the latest version of the same thing due to Pekka Rinne's injury.
The Predators penalty kill got back on track against Detroit after having their 37 kill streak broken on Monday in Atlanta. The Preds are ranked 6th (85.4) in the league in the PK while Florida is 8th (84.9). Both teams are abysmal on the power play with the Preds at 28th (11.1) and the Cats in dead last (8.4).
The Predators will again be without David Legwand who mad a two period cameo appearance on Wednesday after being injured on November 18 in Montreal.
The Predators' next game will be Monday at the Bridgestone Arena against the New York Islanders.
For other previews see Amanda DiPaolo, Chris Burton, The Tennessean, and Predators.com.
From sunny south Florida the news comes from The Sun Sentinel, The Rat Trick, The Miami Herald, On Frozen Pond, and Litter Box Cats.
In Pred Nation...
Bryan Mullen talked to Pekka Rinne about his injury. He also writes about the Preds expecting to win at home.
Barry Trotz called Tomas Vokoun the Preds' "first big star."
Dirk Hoag takes a deep look at Kevin Klein's statistics to see if he deserves the criticism he receives from many fans.
John Manasso reports about the scrappy Predators at Fox Sports. He also talks Preds goaltending at NHL.com.
Chet Pickard won his first AHL game since last season as Roman Josi had the shootout winner as the Admirals beat Rockford 4-3 last night.
Ex-Pred Nolan Yonkman is battling daily to stick with the Coyotes as the 6/7 defenseman. I hope he is able to stick around because no one has worked harder over the years.
Around the NHL...
The most talked about goal lately was Linus Omark's spin-o-rama shoot out winner against Dan Ellis last night. Ryan Porth has the video clip here. Big Kev addresses the sour grapes coming from the Lightning camp. Dan Ellis thought it was "disrespectful." Really Dan? What about your letting it go in?
On the Winter Classic front, an Old Timers game was announced to be headed by Mario Lemieux and a bunch of other Pens and Caps greats.
As you are reading this the Big Chill at The Big House gets underway at 2 p.m. Central. It is on Fox Central Sports on Charter.
Twenty-three busloads of Nordique fans are invading Long Island tonight to make a point that they need a team. I'm glad they didn't come down here a few years ago.
Aaron Wood has joined the Inside Hockey team and his first post is about hockey working in the desert.
Glendale's mayor is also defending the city's efforts to keep the Coyotes. The lease details were made public last night and the city will cough up $197 to help buyer Matthew Hulsizer make the numbers work to pay the NHL $170 million to close the deal. The City Council vote is Tuesday.
Puck Report takes a 25 game look at the playoff projections. With the west being all clustered together, it doesn't mean much there.
Intent to Blow has an odd story about Alexander Ovechkin pointing to a net size disparity as the reason for Sidney Crosby's success this year.
Odds and Ends...
The Belcourt in Nashville is doing another Sundance remote screening. We went last year and it was a blast. Tickets go on sale to members on 12/13 and to the public on 12/15. January 27 is the date of the show. Nashville will get the Sundance World Premiere of "Letters from the Big Man."
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass