The Nashville Predators play the Anaheim Ducks in the first of three home games that will go a long way in telling the tale of where the Preds will end up in the Western Conference playoff race. The Preds play Dallas on Saturday and Vancouver pays a visit on Tuesday.
After this three game stretch, the Predators will only have one game left with a playoff caliber team and that will be with Detroit who will return to Nashville a week from Saturday. Realistically, the Predators should win at least six of the final eight game which would give them another 100 point season and place them comfortably in the playoffs.
This is the last meeting of the year for the two teams. In the Preds opener in Nashville, on October 9, the Predators beat a hapless Ducks squad 4-1. In Anaheim, on November 7, the Predators suffered a horrible loss when they forgot to play the last two seconds of the game and lost 5-4. On January 5, the Preds scored two empty netters and Pekka Rinne stopped 40 shots in a 4-1 win at Anaheim.
Tonight's game has the making of an an all out war. Both teams enter tonight's game on a four game winning streaks with Anaheim beating Dallas 4-3 in overtime last night and the Preds cruising past Edmonton 3-1 on Tuesday. Nashville has 88 points and is in seventh place in the Western Conference and the Ducks are in eight, a point back and with a game in hand.
The Predators will go with Pekka Rinne in net once again who is 6-2-2 in his last ten starts. He will continue his quest of the Jennings, Vezina, and Hart Trophies in a tough match-up with the Ducks.
It is hard to say who will start for the Ducks in goal. Ray Emery was in net for the Ducks last night and probably will not start tonight. Jonas Hiller (26-16-3, 2.50, .925) has missed 16 games with dizziness but did dress as the backup last night may be the choice. Dan Ellis (19-9-7, 2.87, .893) is making his first trip to Nashville as a visitor and has been inconsistent with the Ducks since coming over from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline.
Tonight is the final College Night of the year and a good crowd should be on hand. If you don't have tickets, do not delay because it should be another near-capacity crowd.
Other previews come from Amanda DiPaolo, Hockey Night in Nashville, Pro Hockey Talk, Predatorial, Patten Fuqua, The Tennessean, and Predators.com.
For the Southland view check out J.P. Hoonstra, The Battle of California, the OC Register, Anaheim Calling, and the LA Times.
Yesterday's RLD Hockey Radio, that was produced by Ryan Porth, was a great show. First, we had Kevin Allen from USA Today and we discussed the Matt Cooke suspension, the Coyotes dilemma, and the playoff playoff races. Then Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period discussed the tight Western Conference race. It was a fun show that is worth a listen at BTR or with the following player.
In Pred Nation...
Amanda DiPaolo wrote the ultimate nomination of Pekka Rinne for post season hardware with quotes of support from other Predators.
Jeremy Gover has the story of the all the hats collected for Blake Geoffrion.
Josh Cooper says it's Playoffs or Bust for the Preds and has his notes column this morning.
USA Hockey named Paul Fenton the Associate GM of the 2011 U.S. Men's National Team and David Poile will be a part of the national team advisory group. Scott Gordon will be the coach.
David Boclair talks about the Predators' home cooking in spite of having a low home goal total.
Jim Diamond recounts the Dan Ellis snowstorm game from three years ago when Pekka Rinne was recalled to start for the Preds and was stalled by a storm. Fond memories indeed...
Paul McCann had Bill Clement and E J Hradek on Slapshot Radio Last night. The podcast is here.
Colin Wilson is getting his confidence back per his weekly blog.
Blake Geoffrion made the NHLPA's player of the week.
Our friend Michael Langlois has a post about "Boom Boom" Geoffrion and Blake at Vintage Leaf Memories. I love reading his stuff because he has lived through much of it.
Condolences to Colin Wilson and his family in the passing of his grandfather, Dr. Gerry Wilson on Tuesday. This is an interesting story what Wilson meant to the game of hockey.
Josh Cooper reports that Cal O'Reilly skated yesterday and that Steve Sullivan may return to the ice soon. So, Hockey Night in Nashville asks what do you do with him when he returns.
Josh also summed up the action last night with a late night post.
It's always good to see what a visitor thinks of a visit to Nashville. Andre Delsol, who is doing 30 cities in 29 days gives his report on Nashville. If you are sensitive, don't read it or work on your sense of humor.
Steve Lapore throws love to Pekka Rinne and Ryan Suter in his new feature at Versus.
For Admiral fans in Milwaukee, there are plenty of promotions lined up for Friday and Sunday's home games at the Bradley Center.
I was unaware that the Tennessee and Vandy hockey teams were going to play at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bridgestone Arena in the inaugural I-40 faceoff classic.
Around the NHL...
Gary Bettman has warned the Habs and Bruins for no funny business surrounding tonight's game in Boston. Mark Recchi must not have gotten the memo as he indicated that the Habs may have embelished Max Pacioretty's injury as the lobbied for a suspension for Zdeno Chara.
With the remade Washington Capitals go further in the playoffs this year?
Burnside and LeBrun square off over whether the Lightning are done for the year.
Brian Kennedy had an interesting post about Ray Emery's return at the The Hockey Writers.
From @dchesnokov: #KHL will not play #NHL teams this year after disagreement over wage demand.
Adrian Dater leaves hockey for a couple of hours to tell a great story about reverting back to boyhood idol worship in interviewing Fred Lynn.
Episode 96 of Kingscast is up and about the Homeless.
What a story from A Day in the Life of a Hockey Wife. This is one to bookmark and read when you have time. It offers great insight into the tough side of hockey for families.
Want to go on a cruise with Drew Doughty, Wayne Simmonds, and Trevor Lewis? Go here to sign up.
Intent to Blow has news from Columbus on their cannon, one of Preds fan's favorite topics.
Odds and Ends...
Pensblog as a tornado video that you have to see. He credits Ryan Porth for the find.
If you are a rocket scientist, SpaceX is hiring.
Here's a beginners guide to the Motorola Xoom. I'm really wanting one now. There is also a rumor that Motorola will build their own phone OS.
It appears that Twitter was the main source of reporting on Elizabeth Taylor's death yesterday.
Here is a primer of Facebook's tools for blogs.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass