The Nashville Predators return home tonight to play the Buffalo Sabers (7 p.m. NHL Center Ice - no local TV) as the team enters a critical portion of the schedule where they will play 14 of the next 19 games in the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena.
Fifteen of Nashville's first 25 games have been on the road where the team has a 8-6-1 record. In ten home games, the Predators have an uncharacteristic 4-3-3 record.
In the six seasons since the NHL lockout, the Preds have dominated at home averaging a 26-11-4 record so they have plenty of work to do in the next six weeks of the home dominated schedule to get close to their average.
The Predators season to this point could best be described as inconsistent. They have played well at times and have had a few stinkers along the way too.
David Poile said during the preseason that the Predators would have a much better record during the second half of the year than the first. Fans are hopeful that his prediction is correct.
The Preds are coming off the 6-5 roller-coaster win in Vancouver on Thursday where Pekka Rinne (10-8-4, 2.57, .921) was pulled for the second game in a row in Vancouver after giving up five goals on 18 shots. Anders Lindback (2-1-0, 2.37, .918) picked up the win, stopping all 19 shots that he faced.
Rinne has started all but two of the Predators 25 games and may be in need of a night off. There could be justification for giving Lindback the start tonight since he was the winner last season in Nashville's only game against the Sabers, a 4-3 overtime win where Blake Geoffrion had his hat trick.
In many ways, Buffalo is the Eastern Conference version of the Predators. Their coach, Lindy Ruff (1090 games), is the only coach to have been with the same club longer than the Preds' Barry Trotz (1009 games). The Sabres focus on goaltending and defense and are challenged to score goals at times, much like the Predators.
The Sabres are coming off last night's 4-1 loss to Detroit in Buffalo and will not be well rested. They too have been inconsistent and are 2-6-1 in their last nine games.
Ryan Miller (5-6-0, 2.86, .909) had a rough start to the season in goal and was injured in a game on November 12 against Boston and has not played since. Jhonas Enroth (8-5-1, 2.32, .925) has started every game since Miller's injury including last night's loss to Detroit.
Yesterday, on Smashville on The Glass Radio, we were told by Bill Hoppe that Miller was shooting for a return in tonight's game with Nashville. If he can't go, it will be Enroth again with Drew MacIntyre (0-0-0, 1.40, .944) as the back up.
The Predators' next game will be Tuesday against Phoenix at Bridgestone Arena.
For POTG ticket pricing go here and use the special offer code "preds" here to get the best prices for all remaining Predator home games.
For other Predators' previews check out Ryan Porth, Amanda DiPaolo, Robby Stanley, Paul McCann, Predatorial, Fang Finger, and Predators.com.
The other side of the story comes from Die By The Blade, Black, Blue, and Gold, The Buffalo News, Niagara Gazette, Sabre Noise, Sabre's Edge, WGR, The Gooses Roost, Shots off the Crossbar, and Sabres.com.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass