The second worst, lowest scoring team in the Western Conference is who the Pittsburgh Penguins will have to deal with.
Pittsburgh Penguins (20-17-4, 44 pts.) vs. Nashville Predators (17-19-3, 37 pts.)
Seems like an easy task, right? Sounds like two points, eh?
If that’s the mentality the Penguins have we’ll likely see a repeat of the losses to Florida, Tampa Bay and Toronto. One would have to expect, though, that those games and the recent losing skid have opened the players’ eyes to how important each and every game is.
Tonight marks the beginning of the second half of the season. It is a clean slate and a race to the playoffs. At 44 points and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, the Penguins can overlook no team on the road to the post-season, that is, if they hope to be part of the party.
The Predators are a team in limbo. Their players don’t seem to care and their coach can’t seem to make up his mind. The Preds are coming off an embarrassing loss against Colorado in which they dictated play but couldn’t capitalize on opportunities. Forechecker over at KK summed it up best:
Execution (or more properly the lack thereof) was the key in last night’s awful 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, considering the fact that Nashville took 70 Total Shots to Colorado’s 38, a margin that genuinely reflects the flow of the game. The Preds buzzed around the zone and fired plenty of pucks, but fully two-thirds of them were either blocked or sent wide of the goal.
Sounds like they’ve got a case of the Penguins. I.e. … sounds like the Pens can, if they choose to, dominate.
The Predators are led in scoring by J.P. Dumont with 32 points (7 G – 25 A). They feature decent scoring from the blue line, with two defensemen registering over 20 points so far this year. Shea Weber, 28 points (12 G – 16 A), is second on the team in scoring and Ryan Suter, 20 points (3 G – 17 A), is fifth.
In goal Dan Ellis has put up decent numbers — a 10-14-3 record with a 2.83 GAA and .903 SV% — but has suffered in his record because of lack of goal support.
This could be a great chance for Marc-Andre Fleury to get another confidence booster. The defense could benefit as well.
As far as scoring goes for the Penguins, they face an average defense. Jordan Staal will be playing on Sidney Crosby’s right wing. It will be interesting to see how this combination works out. The two paired with Tyler Kennedy, who played with Staal on the third line for the majority of the season before falling to injury, will be yet another shot at finding Crosby the right line to compliment his skills.
The second line will feature Evgeni Malkin, Petr Sykora and Miroslav Satan. Max Talbot will lead the third line with Alex Goligoski and Matt Cooke at the wings. Finally, the fourth line will pair Tim Wallace, Dustin Jeffrey and Eric Godard.
Maybe this latest shuffle of lines will create a spark.
Forwards: Penguins. There is far more talent and scoring depth for Pittsburgh.
Defense: Penguins. Pittsburgh has a much easier task in defending the Predators as opposed to them defending the Pens.
Goaltending: Penguins. Ellis has lost three of his last four games, giving up 11 goals in that span. Coming off a one-goal performance, Fleury should have full confidence between the pipes.
Special Teams: Even. Neither team is doing anything special in odd-man situations.
There’s no reason for the Pens to lose. However, we’ve experience that lately and it has gone the other way. I think the Pens get it now. So, let’s say a 3-1 victory.
Chris | PPT